said, that he rose to call the attention of the House to a question of vast importance. In speaking of China he was influenced by recollections of the past, having spent a large portion of his life in that empire; and he had the strongest interest in promoting the tranquillity and prosperity of that empire, because he had been for many years and still was connected with a part of that empire near the locality of those operations upon which he would animadvert. Although the subject was considered by a large 30 majority of the House to be a very uninteresting and disagreeable one, events passing in the East had been and would be so intimately connected with the finances of this country that the attention of the House sooner or later must be given to the question. He would therefore say, in a spirit of perfect friendliness, to hon. Members that they must address themselves to the subject, and to the best of their ability make themselves masters of it, as for some years it would form a prominent topic of debate, if the policy advocated by her Majesty's Government was persistently pursued. It was a profound and trite remark of the late Duke of Wellington that the dignity of Great Britain forbade it to indulge in little wars; but so long as the noble Viscount was at the head of Her Majesty's Government he would apparently always afford us the luxury of a little war, which sooner or later would grow into one of great dimensions. Such would prove to be the case with the war raging in China. In giving notice of a Resolution upon the subject he had been actuated by no party spirit, nor by any feeling of hostility towards the Government, but he had brought the matter forward solely on public grounds. Had he wished to perplex or to embarrass the Government, his Resolution would have been framed in other terms. It was not his intention to indulge in severe animadversions on Her Majesty's plenipotentiaries, nor on our admirals, generals, and consuls in that part of the world. On the contrary, he held that the Government were responsible for the acts of their officers, and therefore he would address himself solely to them. He had to state at the outset that the course of policy pursued in China was not creditable, after the declarations made by Her Majesty's Ministers in that House; and that that assertion might not rest on his unsupported ipse dixit, he would refer to Hansard, and read to the House what was said by the noble Lord the Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs on the occasion of a debate which took place on the 31st of May last year, when the hon. Member for Greenock brought the affairs of China under the notice of the House. Earl Russell then said—In what way, then, is it possible for us to interfere so as either to put down the Tartar dynasty, or to enable that dynasty to suppress this insurrection? I conceive that it is not our duty to do either one thing or the other … but the course of the British authorities will be to 31 preserve a neutral attitude, and endeavour to protect the persons and property of British subjects where they may be in danger. … It is a great misfortune that the country should be in such a state of civil war; but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the views of her Majesty's Government will always be in favour of neutrality." [3 Hansard, clxiii., 387–8.]The noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government, on the same occasion, concluded his remarks in the following sentence:—All that we can, in my opinion, be expected to do is that which my noble Friend has shown that we are doing—giving neither party cause to complain, and, as far as hostilities are concerned, acting according to the principles of strict neutrality." [3 Hansard, clxiii., 405.]Five months later he found the noble Earl the Foreign Secretary writing out to China that "it might be expedient to protect the treaty ports if the Chinese would consent not to use those ports for purposes of aggression against the rebels." It would seem that the noble Lord, when penning that despatch, was oblivious of the fact that the treaty ports were then being used for the express purpose of aggression against the rebels. He had gone carefully through all the papers laid on the table, and he had been very much puzzled to find that the acts of Her Majesty's representatives in China had been the very reverse of the instructions that had been sent out by Her Majesty's Ministers. That discrepancy was to him inexplicable, unless he accepted the popular belief outside—whether ill-founded or well-founded he did not know—that people in high places sometimes by a significant memorandum or postscript completely nullified the effect of their public despatches. They had been told that it was the postscript "Go it, Ned," of his late Majesty, who was then First Lord of the Admiralty, to Admiral Codrington, which led to the calamitous and disastrous victory of Navarino. He was almost induced to inquire whether, when these peace-loving despatches were sent to China, when these declarations of neutrality were made, and when these appeals to all those principles which command approval in this country were written, the Prime Minister, or some other individual had not added a significant postscript, such as "Go it Bruce!" or "Smash the Taepings!" Whether that was so, or not, certainly the acts committed in China were in direct contravention of the despatches from home. And what added to the mystery was this, that where there was a direct non-conformity 32 with the instructions, it was found that those who most disobeyed the orders of their superiors at home, received the highest applause, and the chances were, they might even receive the thanks of Parliament. The House was aware, from what appeared in the public papers, that they were in a state of actual war in China. The last advices from Shanghai were to the 21st of May; and the telegraphic news appeared in the papers of yesterday. He took the opportunity of stating that the telegram was not correct in the names. It was obvious that it was Ningpo and not Tsingpoo that had been wrested from the Taepings. Ningpo was one of the treaty ports, which had been in the occupation of the Taepings for four months or more; and Tsingpoo was a place about eighteen miles from Shanghai, or twenty-five miles by the river; it was in connection with the Grand Canal, where inland navigation centred, and was a very important place taken in its connection with Shanghai. One part of the telegram was very remarkable. They were told that native troops had been ordered from India for the defence of Shanghai. He wished to inquire from the noble Lord by whose authority and under whose instructions these troops were so ordered from India to China. What was the value of our Mutiny Bill—what was the value of that practical control which Parliament professed to have over the finances of the country, if, at the will of any official, troops were to be ordered on to India, and the "little Bill" was to be sent to the House? A great constitutional question was involved, assuming the telegram to be true; and the matter demanded the serious attention of the House at this invasion of one of its most important privileges. The policy of their officials in China had been, not a policy of neutrality, but one of systematic co-operation with the Imperial power. The terms "perfidious" and "cruel," once applied to the Imperialists, were now applied to the Taepings; and those people who formerly were the loudest traducers of the late Commissioner Yeh, and branded him as a ferocious butcher, now said that his conduct was justifiable, as he slaughtered only the rebels. In connection with the occupation of Ningpo by the Taepings, a despatch had been sent out to China which would be fraught with the most important consequences to this country. It was to be found in page 111 of the blue-book, and it was that of Earl Russell to the Admiralty in reference to 33 the protection of the treaty ports. The noble Lord, writing on March 11th, 1862, said—In view of the subsequent capture of Ningpo, and the reported intention of the Taepings to attack Shanghai, it now seems to Her Majesty's Government desirable that Vice Admiral Hope should be furnished with instructions of a more comprehensive character. The atrocities which have been witnessed in the case of the capture of other cities have paralysed all trade and industry, and have driven away the whole or a greater part of the peaceable population, and have scattered ruin and devastation far and wide. The interests of humanity and commerce alike demand that the city and port of Shanghai, with its numerous native population and foreign settlements, which cannot be separated from the rest of the city, should be preserved from a similar fate. British interests alike require that the same protection should, as far as possible, be accorded to the other treaty ports. I have therefore to signify to your Lordships the Queen's commands that Vice Admiral Hope should be instructed to defend Shanghai, and to protect the other treaty ports not in the hands of the rebels, so far as it is in the power of Her Majesty's naval forces to do so. Vice Admiral Hope should further be instructed that the British flag is to be protected on the Yang-tze-Kiang by a naval force, and generally that British commerce is to have the aid of Her Majesty's ships of war.He, as a merchant, having an interest in China, could have no objection to the protection of British property; but his complaint was, that another policy might have been adopted, which would have rendered any interference on the part of their naval and military forces wholly unnecessary. What did that despatch mean? and what did the policy it indicated involve? The noble Lord took upon himself the defence of sixteen ports, embracing a long line of coast and country extending one thousand miles inland; he had given instructions to defend twenty degrees of latitude and twelve degrees of longitude. With reference to their ability to undertake such a stupendous task, he would read the opinion of one of the most competent of Her Majesty's consuls, Mr. Meadows, who, writing to Earl Russell on the 19th of February, 1861, said—A few years back the aid of a small British army and naval squadron operating along a portion of the Great River (Yang-tze-Kiang) could perhaps have enabled the Manchoos to suppress this particular Chinese rising against their rule; but now it would require a large fleet of steamers, operating throughout some 1,500 or 2,000 miles of the Great River and its larger harbours, and some 20,000 troops operating in some three or four complete small armies in different parts of the tract of country mentioned above as being more or less in the occupation of Taeping forces, and which extends about 800 to 900 miles from north to south, and 1,000 to 1,100 from east to west. 34 It would prove one of the most troublesome and costly wars that England ever engaged in; costly as regarded the direct outlay, and still more costly as regarded the consequences to our trade; for the region in question is that which, practically speaking, produces the whole of our tea and silk exports, and which consumes the larger portion of our manufactured imports; and the effect of our hostilities in it would be to overspread it with anarchy and desolation.He knew he should be met by the hon. Under Secretary of State with the declaration, that all that had been done for the benefit of trade and commerce, and therefore he would tell him beforehand that it would be hard to make out such a case. How stood the matter? Had they any deficiency of tea? On the contrary, that year they had an import of unexampled magnitude. With regard to silk, they had received more than was necessary to meet the requirements of the country; and although there was rather less that year than last, it was because the prices were so unremunerative to the importers. It had been said that they might count on a diminution of the supply, because the Taepings had occupied certain provinces. What then was the fact? Why, that from his own knowledge he could assure the House that at that time they had double the quantity they ever had of the particular kind of silk produced in the rebel district. That fact showed that there could be no considerable impediment to industry in that part of China. But, unhappily, there was in China a complication of which he did not see the end. He had never indulged in irritating language towards the neighbouring power of France; but with all respect for France, he must say that, in his opinion, it was a grievous calamity to have her co-operation in China. The ways of France in China were not their ways, nor were her interests theirs. That was shown by the ostentatious declaration made in the Senate by Count de Montauban, the Commander of the French forces in China, that the interests of France in China were not British interests, but the interests of religion; and he asserted that it was nothing less than a calamity for this country to be associated in the purposes which that phrase implied. Sooner or later the House would hear a great deal about Chinese affairs, and therefore he had better tell them at once something about the French co-operation. The French had a most intense and even envenomed hatred against the Taepings, which appeared to have arisen in this 35 way:—The old and venerable superstition Buddhism prevailed in China, and it was a remarkable fact that there was a most wonderful similarity between the rites, customs, and observances of that religion and those of the Roman Catholic religion. Every one who had been in China, as well as in the Roman Catholic countries of Europe, must at once have been struck with the resemblance. At the corners of the streets would be found images of the Queen of Mercy, represented exactly like the Virgin and Child, and candles were burnt before them; the Buddhists had monasteries and nunneries, whose inmates had shaven heads; and all the pains and penalties of purgatory were described on the walls of their temples. Indeed, so striking was the resemblancce, that if any Gentleman who heard him could be transported to the interior of China in a trance, and thus suddenly to find himself in one of these Buddhist institutions, he would easily mistake it for a Sicilian monastery. Father Ripa stated that it was the cunning of the devil which had invented this parody on the holy Roman Catholic faith, that he might seduce souls to their eternal condemnation. In their irruptions the Taepings destroyed some images of the Virgin Mary, whom they mistook for the goddess worshipped by their Pagan countrymen, and, unfortunately, they also massacred some Catholic priests habited as Chinese, whom they confounded with the native religionists. Thus began a bitter enmity to the Taepings on the part of the French, who were prepared—as M. de Montauban had said—to advance their own faith in China in a way that must lead to perplexing consequences, which we should have to deplore. In making these remarks he disclaimed any feeling of hostility towards members of the Roman Catholic Church, and his votes in that House bore out that disclaimer. He merely wished to point out the inconveniences which might arise from the introduction of the religious question. He knew something of the influential Roman Catholic dignitaries in China. The last time he dined in China was in the company of the Roman Catholic bishop of Nankin, a most estimable prelate. He should also add that the whole of the French trade with China did not amount to 5 per cent. of that of Great Britain, and therefore she must have some other motive than a mere pecuniary one for taking the part she now did in the suppression of this rebellion. 36 He might mention that, according to the last advices, Admiral Protet, the French naval commander, was supposed to have been killed in fighting against the Taepings. It might be thought he was exaggerating the importance of the question. Did those who so thought know what the Taeping power was? Sir Harry Parkes had recently given a narrative of the progress of that rebellion at a reunion at the house of the hon. Member for Perth; and he stated, that although ravaging a comparatively small portion of China, it comprised an area of 130,000 square miles, and included a population of not less than 93,000,000 souls. He had never sympathized with the religious tenets of the Taepings, and had incurred obloquy for exposing the delusion under which the people of this country had laboured on that subject. He subscribed entirely to the character which Consul Harvey had given of the Taeping doctrines—namely, that nothing more blasphemous, either in its creed or its ethics, had ever appeared in the world. But the Taepings had been for nine years at Nankin; and as even his sable majesty was said not to be as black as he was painted, so many of their acts had been much exaggerated. Unhappily, great cruelties were the too common accompaniments of civil war. He was at a loss to understand the sudden change which had come over the policy of the Government in regard to the rebels, because it was directly at variance with the opinions expressed by some of those who ought to be best informed on such a matter. Admiral Hope, for example, writing to Mr. Bruce on the 11th July, 1861, said—On the other hand, the Taeping authorities will be open to easy access by us, so long as Nankin remains the seat of Government, and from such experience as our short intercourse has afforded, I see a fair prospect of our acquiring sufficient influence with them to enable us to carry all points which are essential to our commercial interests, even to that of eventual abstinence from molesting consular ports. It is further clear that we cannot afford to quarrel with them, as at any moment they might stop the whole trade of Shanghai, at this time by far the largest portion of that from China.To those views he (Mr. White) entirely subscribed; and he would add that it was most extraordinary that the Government should have adopted the course they had done, because they had no cause of complaint against the Taepings. We made a convention with them which they had observed, perhaps not from feelings of friendship or affection, but from feelings 37 of respect and fear of British power. Why our policy, then, should have changed so suddenly was inexplicable. We had waited until the Taepings became masters of the province, and until they had acquired a hold upon all the country except Shanghai, and then, when they had subjugated the country, we turned round, and, in conjunction with the French, were about to expel them from the province. Had we interfered earlier, at the request of the Chinese authorities, there might have been some sagacity in our intervention, though he could not see the justice of it; but to wait until the mischief had been done, and then to re-enact the same scenes of carnage, was what he could not comprehend. In 1853, when the Taepings first took possession of Ningpo, the Imperialists applied to us for assistance. Sir George Bonham wrote a despatch in reply, in which he said it was the established custom of this country in no way to interfere in contests in other countries not under British rule. Sir George Bonham was not a member of the party to which he (Mr. White) belonged; but if he had remained in China, and if his advice had been followed, then the £7,000,000 we spent in the last China war would not have been expended. And what was British policy only a few months ago? On the 3rd January, 1861, Her Majesty's Plenipotentiary, Mr. Bruce, wrote to Earl Russell—It does not appear to me necessary to take any part in this conflict, but our material interests at Shanghai justify us in insisting on its being exempted from attack until the insurgents have sufficiently established their superiority to enable us to consider the contest, as respects that part of China, at an end. In that case the population of the town will be quite ready to acknowledge the new power, and the authority of the mandarins will fall without a blow. That such a result has not taken place as yet, is to be attributed to the dislike felt by the respective classes, who guide opinion in China to the principles and conduct of the insurgents, rather than to any decided inclination on behalf of the existing Government.Nothing could be more true than those remarks. And six months later Mr. Bruce, writing to Admiral Hope on the 16th June, 1861, said—Her Majesty's Government will, however, probably abstain from rendering active assistance at present to the Imperial Government, both on account of the assurances of neutrality we have given to the insurgents, and on account of the serious and indefinite consequences to which any such intervention would in all probability lead. Furthermore, I do not think that order and tranquillity can be permanently restored unless the Imperial Government regains its prestige among the people by some such proof of its vigour and 38 power as would be afforded by its successful action against the insurgents.Mr. Bruce thus concluded—This (the Imperial) Government only requires to be convinced that our interests are linked with its own to render it obstructive and unmanageable, and the longer we are able to preserve an indifferent attitude between the two parties, the more inclined they will be to bid higher for our friendship and support.Under such circumstances, he contended that the change of policy was most inopportune. Why did they not interfere when the Taepings first went to Nanking, seeing that Ningpo was only 180 miles from Shanghai? Even later, when the rebels took possession of Shanghai, trade went on, and the loss they suffered was not from the rebels but from the Imperialists. Indeed, so intolerable was the treatment they received from the Imperialists, that the foreigners turned out, and in conjunction with the seamen in the port, assaulted the Imperial camp. Some of the British residents lost their lives, but they drove the Imperialists away. Except for the interference of the French, the city would have remained in the possession of the then occupants, but they assaulted and took it for the Imperialists. The House might not be aware that the Imperialist Government had ostentatiously declared in the Pekin Gazette of the 12th February they had made an alliance offensive and defensive with the British and French Governments. From that and from what seemed to be going on, it appeared that Her Majesty's Government was inextricably committed to that course of policy. He was not indifferent to the interests of our fellow-subjects in Shanghai. Indeed, he had a deep personal interest in the safety of life and property in that part of the world. The value of their foreign trade with Shanghai, a place which a few years ago could not be found on the maps, might be fairly estimated at £30,000,000 per annum. He should probably be told by the hon. Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs that the occupation of Ningpo by the rebels had been disadvantageous to English interests. Capitalists of all countries were timid; and when Chinese merchants were told, as they had been, that the British and French Governments would interfere and drive the rebels from Ningpo, it was likely that the occupation would prove disadvantageous. But the fact was, that there was a larger trade at Ningpo when it was held by the rebels than when 39 it was in the occupation of the Imperialists. The last accounts described a conflict in which we were engaged at Shanghai, in which 2,000 English soldiers were engaged, and the local paper, the organ of the Government, indulged in strong language with regard to our conduct on that occasion. He could not say he shared the opinions of the writer, who said—What are we to think? Here are British people plundering the plunderers; and instead of handing over the property they have obtained without sacrifice of life, which they did on the 1st May, to the extent of 130,000 taels, or £40,000, to the proper owners, they seized it as loot or prize money.It was fair to inquire what the Imperialists were doing for us. Were we better treated, or were we deriving any sensible advantage from the course we had pursued? Here he would refer to the latest accounts from China. At the time we were co-operating with them in the interior against the rebels, the Imperialists were insulting and maltreating our fellow countrymen. That took place at Hankow, one of the cities described by Abbé Huc. Hankow was 600 miles from Shanghai, and the last accounts were, that "foreign life and property were not safe in the midst of the armed miscreants, who were raised and sent down the river for Imperialist purposes." At Kiu-kiang, another Imperialist place, the accounts said that not only were British merchants attacked in the streets and their hongs broken into, but junks sailing under the British flag were seized and plundered, and the villains had the audacity to break into the British consulate. As to Kiu-kiang, more than a year ago land had been conceded for the use of the British merchants; and though it had been paid for, not a single foot had yet been obtained, and another year would elapse before they could feel safe as residents. It might be asked what was to be done in the matter? He had a friend in China who was formerly a Member of that House, and sat on the Opposition side, and he had written to him in corroboration of the information which he (Mr. White) had received from other sources—namely, that there was the most earnest and sincere desire on the part of the Taepings to come to terms with the Imperial Government. And, furthermore, they had such respect for the power and authority of the British Government that the latter had only to will it and it would be done. He felt quite certain, that if some persons properly accredited were sent out 40 to China from this country wholly unconnected with past transactions, they would most likely succeed in tranquillizing that country and accomplishing all that we desired without that vast effusion of life and expenditure of public money which certainly must follow if the present policy of Her Majesty's Government were persisted in. Before he sat down he thought it right to lay before the House a statement of what might be considered to be the present condition of affairs in China, and on that subject the most trustworthy authority to his mind was Mr. Consul Medhurst, who, in writing to Earl Russell, on the 19th February, 1861, said—But the hitherto existing Imperial Government, that of the Manchoo or Ta-tsing dynasty, which was already becoming weak from internal causes, has received its death blows from the external action—first of British arms alone, and now of British and French combined. No strong national Government now exists anywhere, and in large, and to us very important, portions of the country, anarchy and insecurity prevail. It becomes, therefore, of the utmost importance to look around us for some other power in the nation to take its place. If we find any such other power, we must not only not attack it, but must earnestly desire its speedy growth. An adherence, not less wise than just, to the principles of nonintervention, together with the due observance of the Treaties with the Ta-tsing Government, should prevent our taking direct positive steps to aid that growth; but, assuredly, it would be a most suicidal course, as regards those large interests to which I have pointed, first to achieve the destruction of the Government we find existing, and then to proceed to prevent any other from coming into existence.He confessed that he should have wished to have addressed the House without reference to any of the blue-books, for after the garbling and suppression which had taken place in the case of the Affghan papers he did not place the most implicit reliance on blue-books; but knowing that there were still some persons who had great confidence in the documents which appeared in them, he had felt it his duty to refer thereto. He could not sit down without inquiring of the noble Lord who was to pay for the expenditure going on in China? It was in the interest of the taxpayers of this country that he put the question. As the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was aware, a very large revenue was derived by the Chinese Government from British trade. As he (Mr. White) made out, at least £,3000,000 was derived by the Chinese Government from that portion of the foreign trade which passed under consular supervision. Now, he contended, 41 that if the whole duty of defending the lives and property of British Merchants was to fall upon the English Government, they at least had a right to require that the duties levied by the Chinese Government, for which they gave nothing in return, should be allocated towards defraying the expense incurred in affording that protection and defence. He thought he was warranted in expressing that opinion, because, by the treaty, it was stipulated that British subjects should enjoy full security and protection for their personal property within the Chinese dominions; but, as stated by Mr. Consul Medhurst, "the existing condition of affairs and past experience too plainly proves this is a provision which cannot, at any rate, be fulfilled with regard to Shanghai." He says—But for the presence of foreign troops in Shanghai the Imperial Government would long since have been ejected even from this little corner likewise. That they are ever likely, unaided, to regain their footing is more than doubtful, considering the effete condition of the Government and the wretched condition of their troops. It is useless therefore to hope for a moment that this settlement will ever have protection from the Imperialists.Were we, then, for the purpose of keeping up a semblance of Government there, to levy heavy contributions on trade, to hand those contributions over to the Chinese authorities, and to abstain from calling upon those authorities to defend our merchants? He had thus endeavoured to trace what had been the avowed policy of the Home Government, and what had been the actual conduct of its agents in China. He had carefully abstained from denouncing our authorities there, because he was persuaded they had so acted, if not under the direct instructions of the noble Viscount, yet with the fullest assurance of his ultimate support and approval. For every one knew that the noble Lord loved a belligerent attitude, or what was called in official parlance a spirited public policy. In reference to the terms of his Resolution he would, in conclusion, remark that by intervention he meant active armed, or hostile intervention, and that he was in favour of a friendly mediation, which he believed to be practicable, and which, if adopted, would give peace and prosperity to those provinces of China now afflicted with the direst of all human calamities—civil war. It now rested with the House to decide whether it was prepared, under the auspices of the noble Viscount, to embark in another China war or not. The 42 last China war had cost upwards of £7,000,000, and in the next he could predict they would see that amount largely increased. He had given his reasons for saying "No." The result of this discussion would tell the country, who would say "Ay." He had done his duty; let that House and the country do theirs.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is the opinion of this House, that Her Majesty's Ministers should direct the British Authorities and Commanders of Her Majesty's Naval and Military Forces in China to avoid any intervention beyond that absolutely necessary for the defence of those British Subjects who abstain from all interference in the Civil War now raging in that country.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
said, he was glad to take that opportunity of seconding a Motion which had his full approbation and support. He did not suppose it would be a matter of interest to any one in that House to follow the history of the Taepings. So long as trade could be carried on with either of the hostile parties, it was a matter of the smallest possible importance with which of them their relations were established. If the Taepings proved better customers, they would prefer them, as they would the Imperialists if they were the better customers of the two. He did not think it necessary to trouble the House upon these questions, but he should pass on at once to the question of what the policy of England should be to maintain the trade which they already possessed, and for which they had paid so dearly. The policy of England should be one of peace and strict neutrality; they should have nothing to do with the quarrels of Imperialists or Taepings, but should look solely to the preservation of those ports which had been thrown open to them for purposes of commerce. He feared that was not the policy which had been adopted in China. He had received a letter from a gentleman of high station in China, whose information he had always found correct, and that letter stated—It may be within your recollection that, in one of my letters in 1860, I deplored the policy which induced Mr. Bruce then to cause the Taepings, or Chinese reformists, to be fired upon when they first appeared before Shanghai, professing, as they did at the time, the utmost anxiety to maintain friendly relations with us. I then prognosticated that such suicidal policy would jeopardize British interests at Shanghai, so soon as the Taepings could reappear en force before that city, and what I apprehended in 1860 has now come to pass. The Taepings are now in possession of Hankow, of Ningpo, and of all the 43 country above and around Shanghai, and several hostile encounters in which we were the aggressors have taken place (and these, be it observed, several miles beyond the boundaries or neutral ground north of Shanghai) between the Taepings and our sailors and marines, commanded by Admiral Sir James Hope in propria persona. All the country beyond Shanghai, that is, the two Kiang provinces, are in the unmolested [by the Imperialists] occupation of the Taepings, who merely wished, when they neared Shanghai, to occupy that city strategically, so as to have an opening to the sea in that quarter, without interfering with British trade. We require in these seas not only a man of talent, but one of a silent, appreciating foresight; one capable of maintaining a strict neutrality between all parties at feud with each other in China; one incapable of being carried away by his predilections, and one able of comprehending the disguised and fast encroaching policies of the courts of France and of Russia, and of exposing them in his confidential despatches to the British cabinet. France and Russia are quietly and perseveringly increasing their maritime and land forces in the China seas, where France has an advantage we are utterly unable to meet or to counteract unless we maintain a strict neutrality. I allude to her Romish missionaries, who, appointed by the State, are here in the double capacity of soi-disant religious reformers as well as, I may say, 'ordained political emissaries.'He had also met with an account in the China Overland Trade Report of April 26, 1862, in which it was stated that—Upon the fall of Ningpo, a few months since, a deputation of the Shanghai Chamber of Commerce waited upon Admiral Hope, when he distinctly told them that the only instructions he had were not to come into collision with the Taepings; that no authority had been given to him even to protect the city of Shanghai; but as he was cognizant of Her Majesty's Government having approved of the protection afforded to the city when attacked by the Taepings in August, 1860, and as he was also aware that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had stated in Parliament that Shanghai should be defended, that therefore he (the Admiral) would so far exceed his instructions as to carry out what he knew to be the wishes of Her Majesty's Government.He was at a loss to understand how the policy actually carried out could be reconciled with that which had been previously announced. He was also at a loss to know why the Government should have committed themselves to a cause in which they had no interest. There were urgent reasons why the English Government should not mix themselves up with foreign quarrels, especially when there was a large population at home enduring their sufferings with an heroic fortitude which had never been excelled, because they would not interfere in the affairs of the United States. In China, however, where their only interest was a commercial one, they sent troops to join a filibustering General (Ward), and car- 44 ried into effect there a policy which they would not adopt in America. It appeared that a combined British and French force, numbering 2,100 men of all arms, had recently proceeded to attack a body of 5,000 Taepings, who had fortified themselves. These fortifications were attacked with artillery, and the Taepings driven out of them. It would appear that Ward was too late, and Admiral Hope, in attempting to call Ward off, was shot in the leg and disabled. The day following, British and French artillery was brought to bear on the intrenched camp of Sunkiang, and without the smallest casualty drove the Taepings out. On the 17th a second expedition, similarly formed and constituted, started for another fortified town, a little way east of Shanghai, which was garrisoned by 8,000 or 10,000 Taepings. The artillery again performed the murderous work required, and the place was captured with the loss to the assailants of one man killed and three officers wounded. The Taepings had 500 men killed, and 300 taken prisoners. He deprecated the pursuing of such a policy in their relations with China, and he could not conceive any conduct more calculated to lead to war. They had scarcely recovered from the expenses of the last war; and it seemed to him that nothing but a policy of non-intervention could prevent them from sliding into another war, which must result in vast expense and embarrassment. The House had lately heard a great deal about "bloated armaments," and some inquiry was made as to what this meant. Now, if the English power was so unnecessarily large that the Government mixed themselves up in the quarrels of others—if British sailors and marines, commanded by British admirals, were led on to an indiscriminate slaughter upon barbarians who were unworthy of British swords—then their armaments must be bloated indeed, and a policy which could suggest such outrages must require bloated armaments to support it. By a recent letter from Hong Kong he learnt that certain troops, instead of being allowed to leave China as had been intended, were detained there. Did that look like a policy of strict neutrality? There must have been a reason, with which the House was unacquainted, for that very unusual step. If any considerable number of men were detained in China, it was clear that the statement of finances which had been furnished to the House must be illusory, 45 and the finances were not in so flourishing a condition as not to be greatly prejudiced by such a mistake. It was no use holding one's peace and hoping for the best, putting faith in the Government as to what they were doing. The country slipped into war, the House of Commons were asked for large supplies, and it was then too late to protest. That was the only time when they could raise their voices with a tolerable chance of inducing the Government to reconsider their steps. A letter in his possession stated that 500 men of the native Bombay Infantry arrived at Shanghai on the 25th of March, and had already been in action, having taken an intrenched camp of the Taepings some distance from the city. Thus their soldiers were wanted, not simply for defensive, but for offensive warfare. True, that was war upon a small scale; but it was to these wars upon a small scale that he so strongly objected. At the outset of the hostilities which arose out of the lorcha Arrow dispute the noble Lord stated that they were not at war with China, and that it was not a war likely to assume Imperial dimensions; yet the House knew what had been the expenditure of life and money there. He had no doubt it was that expenditure which had disorganized their finances and had rendered necessary up to that moment a double income tax. It seemed to him as if the late war were going to be enacted over again. Then a few troops were sent to avenge an insult to the English flag; and now a few troops were sent to storm a position occupied by the Taepings. By-and-by, the Taepings, as they were very numerous, might obtain some advantage over the British troops, and then, for the honour and glory of England, a large number of men must be sent out to re-establish the prestige of the British arms. He confessed that he thought the arms of England were somewhat tarnished, when he saw the British admiral at the Chinese station joining himself to one who was a convicted felon. He had no great love for military glory, but he had a feeling that the sword of England was seldom drawn in an unrighteous cause. He had a great pride in the achievements of the English flag, which had been carried with success through every region of the known world; but he thought that flag was disgraced when a British force was seen to be operating in strict alliance with barbarian troops commanded by a felon and filibuster. He trusted that the few words 46 he had spoken might not be considered as partaking of any party spirit, and he wished the noble Lord at the head of the Government to recollect that a voice had been raised on both sides of the House to warn the Government against the policy pursued in China. But, however that might be, he felt that in this instance he only had done his duty in speaking before the evil was consummated; and if the policy of continued interference in China should be persevered in and should result in war, it would then be felt to be a great misfortune that the true interests of this country were not consulted by a peaceful and neutral policy.
§ MR. GREGSON
said, that the hon. Member for Brighton had spoken of a little war, but it was to be hoped that they were not going to have any war at all. The Government, as far as he understood their policy, were only pursuing the system of perfect neutrality. He believed that the Government were only endeavouring to protect the treaty ports. Some incorrectness in the telegrams about the names of places had been alluded to; but, in his opinion, these telegrams were pretty correct, though he should desire in some instances fuller information to be communicated. He concluded from the wording of the last telegram with Chinese news that the Europeans at Shanghai had requested native troops to be sent from India for the purpose of protecting their lives and property. He was glad that Ningpo had been taken possession of by the Imperial Government, and he thought in was a mistake to allow one of the treaty ports to be taken by the Taepings. The hon. Member for Brighton recommended that some endeavour should be made to bring about an arrangement between the Imperial Government and the Taepings; but how was it possible to come to terms with such a body as the Taepings, who were really no better than robbers and murderers, and who, as was stated by the hon. Under Secrerary for Foreign Affairs on a former occasion, carried destruction and desolation wherever they went? The hon. Member for Brighton called the Imperial Government the Tartar Government; he might as well call the English the Norman Government. England was in amity and alliance with the Imperial Government, and it was clear that their influence was beginning to prevail with them to an extent it had never done before. He was happy to say that that 47 Government was rising to a sense of its duties, and was sending money to purchase gunboats for the protection of their sea coasts and rivers against the pirates and rebels by whom they were infested. He admitted that interference ought to be confined to the protection of their own subjects, trade, and the treaty ports; and if it was intended to add to their naval or military force there, he hoped that specific instructions would be given of that effect. Of course, if any of their naval or military men entered the service of China, they would do so at their own risk, and would forfeit the protection of their own Government. He submitted that great credit was due to Admiral Hope for having so promptly interfered to defend Shanghai against the rebels, and held that he was perfectly justified in prohibiting their approach within thirty miles of that city, and in attaching them when they disregarded his warning. It was all very well for hon. Gentlemen to talk of non-intervention; but to protect the lives and property of our subjects was not intervention, but a positive duty which the Government could not disregard.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, that considering the length of time his notice had been on the paper, he had expected that the hon. Member for Brighton would have brought forward a stronger case. He had been puzzled to discover the object of the Resolution, which he strongly deprecated, and which he hoped the House would not adopt. Nothing could be more mischievous than for them, without knowing the facts, to lay down rules in respect of Oriental countries as if they were European nations. To say that a war existed between us and China was a misapprehension. All that they had done there was to defend the treaty ports, which the Imperial Government were bound to defend; but, failing to do so, it became obviously the duty and interest of the English Government to protect them from the atrocities and devastating barbarities of the Taepings. Admiral Hope, with great discretion, perceiving that they were, in fact, endangered by an incursion of murderers and robbers, took upon himself to defend the lives and property of his countrymen. But it was said why did he not wait until the Taepings arrived at Shanghai. That policy had been tried at Ningpo, and the consequence was well known. At Ningpo everything had been done to persuade the rebels against an attack, but in vain; and 48 the rebels got possession of the town, which, however, he rejoiced at hearing had since been restored to the Imperial Government. Shanghai being similarly threatened, the gallant Admiral adopted the most humane course in his power. The country was flat; there were no defences: he gave notice to the marauders not to come within thirty miles; and no attack was made on them till they approached within that distance. It had been said that there was great slaughter among the Taepings; but let the House reflect upon the atrocities committed by those marauders, who had devastated provinces which before their incursion had possessed an enormous population, and which were now converted into deserts. Sir Harry Parkes entirely approved of the policy of Admiral Hope, and a better authority there could not be, for he had been on the spot, and was fully acquainted with all the circumstances. The hon. Member opposite had spoken of the expense of Chinese wars. No doubt war was expensive, and on that as well as on other accounts was to be deprecated; but as a mere question of expense, he thought that the present and probable future extension of commerce with China was far more than an equivalent for the money expended. The trade already amounted to £30,000,000 annually; and should they be able to repress these bands of marauders and murderers, and to strengthen the hands of the Imperial Government, immense advantage would accrue. Since they had had an Ambassador at Pekin the Chinese Government felt inclined to receive, not their dictation, but their advice; and already symptoms of improvement were evident. What had hitherto been done had been merely for the protection of life and property, and it was altogether wrong that that should be magnified into a war. He trusted that the Government would not depart from the policy they had hitherto pursued, and that they would listen to the advice of their able officers in China rather than to that of persons at home who were not so competent to form an opinion upon the state of affairs in that country.
§ COLONEL SYKES
remarked, that unhappily that which he had more than once predicted in that House had come to pass, and they were now engaged in hostilities with a population of 100,000,000 souls, who, it was said, had armies in the field mustering 400,000 men. Those were not the characteristics of a party of brigands as 49 they had been described. The Rev. Mr. Homberg, of the Basle Evangelical Mission, who published an account in 1853 of the origin of the Taeping rebellion, stated, from the personal testimony of a schoolfellow, that the leader was not an ignorant fanatic, as had been represented, but was a distinguished scholar, with an ancestry that could be traced back to the twelfth century, in the clan "Hung," to which he belonged, and which counted some 20,000 members. With his religious notions the House had nothing to do; but whatever they were, and though he had blasphemously called himself the younger brother of Christ, and pretended to have a divine mission to extirpate idolatry and to drive the Tartars from China, he had, nevertheless, caused the Bible to be printed and published in its integrity, and copies of it were in the hands of several gentlemen in China. The noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department of Her Majesty's Government was the type of honour; and if his instruction to the effect that it was the wish of the Government that a strict neutrality should be maintained between the conflicting parties in China had been carried out, the British would not have found themselves in their present dilemma in that country. Since June last year, however, Mr. Bruce had evinced a hostile disposition to the Taepings, and even alluded, in a letter, dated June 16, 1861, to Admiral Hope, to the prospect of its being desirable to reduce Nanking. No doubt such a feeling would end in an expedition to the Taeping capital, and then the Foreign Office would have no alternative but to accept this additional violation of neutrality, as un fait accompli. Mr. Bruce and Consuls Medhurst and Hervey had filled blue-books with accusations against the Taepings; but Mr. Consul Meadows, of greater experience and knowledge of China than either of them, stated, in a lengthened despatch to Earl Russell, dated Shanghai, 19th February, 1861, in which he took an enlarged view of the position of the Tartar Government and the Taeping rebellion, that the accusations against the Taepings were very grossly exaggerated respecting the slaughter of their countrymen, and which was chiefly referable to the military colonies of the Tartars. Mr. Meadows entirely denied that the Taepings have no regular form of Government; and with respect to the alleged universal desolation of the Taeping districts, he 50 stated it to be untrue, from the evidence of the Rev. Griffith John, who travelled 120 miles through their districts, from Tsing-poo to Nanking. But he (Colonel Sykes) would maintain, independently of the testimony of Consul Meadows and Mr. Griffith John, that the export trade returns from Shanghai, since the Taepings took Nanking in 1853, and the two Kiang provinces, manifestly prove that the asserted general desolation caused by the Taeping progress is unfounded in fact, since the export of tea had increased from 25,940,000lbs. in 1853–4 to 53,619,113lbs. in 1862; and of bales of silk, from 55,185 to 88,112 in 1860–1, and 76,366 in 1861–2. Mr. Bruce himself, in a despatch to Earl Russell, dated the 7th August, 1861, notwithstanding the state the country was in, stated that the export of silk between June, 1860, and June, 1861, actually amounted to 850,000 bales. Moreover, a gentleman who had travelled in China, and who had just returned to this country, had recently called upon him (Colonel Sykes), and stated that the country around the cities occupied by the Taepings was densely populated, and was in a better state of cultivation than that in the possession of the Imperialists. A great deal had been said of the inhumanity of the Taepings, and of the desolation produced by them wherever they appeared; but there were exceptional cases, for at the recent siege of Ningpo the possession of a convent of the Sisters of Mercy, which overlooked a gate, would have given them an enormous advantage, but they refused to accept that advantage at the expense of molesting the nuns, and accordingly the property of the sisterhood remained unharmed. Though that city was taken by assault, not above half a dozen persons were killed. We had taken possession of the treaty ports under the pretence of defending European life and property, but nobody could say with truth that in a single instance European life or property had been destroyed by the Taeping authorities. Property had been in some few cases temporarily interfered with on the Yang-tze-Kiang to levy customs duties; but the English had gone much further than that, for they had seized the guns of the Taepings on the 14th of February, and fired shot and shell into private junks. He contended that the excuse for taking possession of the Treaty Ports on the ground of its being necessary to defend the property of foreigners was unjustifiable. Upon the same principle we 51 ought to seize New Orleans, which contained an enormous amount of property belonging to Liverpool merchants. For his own part, he was an advocate, not of the Taepings, but of good faith and of the interests of the taxpayers of this country. He held in his hand a letter from a correspondent in China, who spoke as an eye-witness of the scenes he described. The House would recollect the description which appeared in The Times the other day of the capture of a place where 2,500 Taepings had been destroyed, and six or seven hundred prisoners were taken and sent to Shanghai, where executions were daily taking place. On a former occasion he (Colonel Sykes) stated to the House that a regiment of militia was paraded at Shanghai, and a Taeping prisoner brought out. His throat was cut; the colours of the regiment were dashed with his blood, and to give them courage the men rubbed their arms with the blood of the dying victim. The gentleman who wrote this was an eye-witness. But the atrocities described in the letter which he (Colonel Sykes) held in his hand, of the execution of the Taeping prisoners were so horrid, the ingenuities with which the wretched victims were put to death were of such a character, that he really could not read the details to the House; and these were the atrocities of the Tartar Governor, whom we were defending. On the other hand, the Taepings said no quarter was given to them, and they were compelled in return to give no quarter. And yet we were promoting, assisting to continue, and our present policy would perpetuate such a state of things. In China all revolutions had been protracted and the Tartars themselves occupied forty years, from 1644, in establishing their power in China, in which country there had been twenty-two distinct revolutions, and the subversion of twenty-two distinct dynasties. The desolation of 1644 is graphically described by the Jesuit Marten. But the Taepings were desolators par excellence, since it occurred to the poetical imagination of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs to depict their progress in these terms—"Their approach is like the sound of the grinding of millions of teeth; they come, and everything living, vegetable or animal, disappears." Well, but, after all, China remained; a busy industry still prevailed; tea and silk were produced in Taeping provinces; and his (Colonel Sykes') friend, now in London, said 52 he had made a most admirable speculation in silk. But for the future what were we to do? We drove the Taepings from the coast, and we could not follow them inland. Surely the course we were pursuing was suicidal. For nine years the Taepings had received Europeans among them, and there has been no case of injury to European person or property during that time. All they asked was, that England should be on good terms with them. If England continued the policy which had been already adopted, we should be involved in a war with half the population of China, and the cost of that war would fall upon Great Britain; therefore, in the name of humanity and good faith, and on behalf of the English taxpayers of this country, he (Colonel Sykes) entered his protest against the policy now being pursued.
§ MR. LAYARD
said, that this question had been discussed under two aspects. His hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Sykes) took it up as an advocate of the Taepings, although disclaiming any intention to support them; but it appeared that his view of impartiality and non-intervention was to give all the support and sympathy they could to the Taepings as against the Imperialists. Then there was his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. White), who brought the case before the House in a much more statesmanlike manner, who had stated in a very impartial way his views upon the subject, disvowing any leaning towards either party, and wishing to look at the question merely as one of Imperial policy. That was a very fair mode of putting the matter, one which deserved consideration, and such an answer as he was able to give as the organ of the Government. But before noticing the speech of the hon. Member for Brighton, he must say a few words in reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes) because it was important, before proceeding to discuss the policy of the Government, that the House should have a clear idea of what these Taepings really were; for, after all, the whole question must turn upon that. He had hoped that he had been able on a former occasion to show the House that these Taepings were of the character which had been attributed to them. They were, he conceived, nothing but a band of marauders, utterly powerless to establish any form of Government, not even aiming at establishing one, and resembling those great Tartar tribes, who in the middle ages issued from 53 the wilds of Asia, overspread the most fertile regions, and everywhere left desolation and ruin in their track. Such was the description given of them not only by every one of Her Majesty's political and consular agents in China, but by the missionaries of all denominations, and the mercantile men who had had anything to do with them. Indeed, when he last addressed the House on the subject, he found that there were only two persons in the world who were sufficiently infatuated to support the Taepings—the one being his hon. and gallant Friend, and the other a Mr. Roberts, a missionary, who, at the time he had spoken, was supposed to be at Nankin with the Taeping Chief. Mr. Roberts, let the House bear in mind, adhered to the Taepings up to the very last moment. He had been tutor to one of the Taeping princes—to one of those incarnations of the divinity with whom he had been at Nankin. That prince was not exactly the gentleman whose biography had been written by Mr. Homberg the missionary, but he had produced a work on Christianity, and on steam and electric telegraphs; and how he carried out his Christianity would be apparent from a letter from Mr. Roberts, who had left him because he was disgusted with him for cutting off the head of a boy, one of the pupils of the missionaries, in his presence. Mr. Roberts wrote his annual report, and sent it to the Overland China Mail; and in order that it might not be supposed that he was influenced by that atrocious act, he stated that he had written his report several days before it occurred.
§ MR. LAYARD
He supposed the boy was what the Italians called poco assassinato—slightly assassinated. Mr. Roberts wrote this passage—If I am happy enough to meet Teen-Wang or any of his followers in Heaven, I shall be agreeably disappointed, unless the good Lord grants them improvement in faith and practice.["Question!"] The whole question turned upon the character of the Taepings; and if he was allowed to state what was the policy of the Government, perhaps it would be admitted that he was speaking to the question. Mr. Roberts, who knew more of the Taepings than any other man, said—Their political system is about as poor as their theology. I do not believe they have any organized Government, nor do they know enough about Government to make one, in my opinion. The whole affair seems to consist in martial law, 54 and that, too, runs very much in the line of killing men, from the highest to the lowest, by all in authority. I became perfectly disgusted by the sights of slaughter.He added—But I must now acknowledge candidly that I see no promise favourable to either commerce or the Gospel in leaving matters quietly in the hands of the rebels, I have advocated their cause until I have utterly despaired, and now gravitation turns the other way. I believe in my heart, however much I may be mistaken in judgment, that it would be for the interest of commerce and the Gospel to break their power upon the seacoast and the Yang-tze river, and never allow them to hold any place within gunshot of a navigable river.He would invite the attention of hon. Members to the report of Mr. Harvey. His hon. and gallant Friend told them that the Government had been designedly deceived by their agents. Did the House believe that there had been a conspiracy on the part of their agents to belie the Taepings? His hon. and gallant Friend depended on the statements contained in anonymous letters. [Colonel SYKES: No.] His hon. and gallant Friend had invited the attention of the House to an account contained in an anonymous letter; and he must say that he preferred to accept the testimony of the Government agents, who affixed their names to what they stated, rather than that of the anonymous correspondents of his hon. and gallant Friend. When the Taepings entered Ningpo, Mr. Harvey was anxious to see how they would conduct themselves. He observed their conduct, and, in a despatch written three months after their entry, he observed that within that space of time they had not taken a single step to establish good government. He added that the experience of those three months had only realized the expectations of those who knew the insurgents. They had brought the place to the condition that had been anticipated—namely, one of ruin and decline. His hon. and gallant Friend said, that there was still commerce in Ningpo. Where was that Commerce? Not in the native city of Ningpo, but in a settlement presided over by the parties to the treaty. Under their protection there was commerce in that settlement, and the Chinese flocked to it in large numbers; but if the Taepings were allowed to enter the place, it would become a ruin. There was no more question of that than of the fact that he was then addressing the House. He would ask whether a single Chinaman of character joined the Taepings. There was no national feeling in their favour; they had 55 put forward no programme of government. They had never stated that they had any grievance which they wished to redress. They were what he had before described them to be—a band of ruthless marauders intent on murder, rapine, and pillage. From the beginning to the end they had preserved that character. His hon. and gallant Friend said that the Chinese were cruel. Well, he believed they were a cruel race, and that rebellion had brutalized them. They had become more cruel. Still for the cruelties of the Chinese there were persons responsible—Her Majesty's Government had something to put their hands on; but for the cruelties committed by the Taepings there was nobody responsible. Occurrences had, however, taken place recently which betokened an improvement in the Chinese. It was reported by Mr. Bruce that some recent operations had been conducted by the Imperialist army, unaccompanied by rapine or a single act of pillage. It was also curious that wherever Europeans appeared the populations had flocked to beseech them in the most touching terms to afford them relief from the Taepings. His hon. Friend (Mr. White) had told them that, at a party given by the hon. Member for Perth, Sir Harry Parkes said that the Taepings numbered 98,000,000 of people, and that the extent of their territory was 132,000 square miles. He had the authority of Sir Harry Parkes for stating that he had not said that. What he had said was, that the Taepings had overrun three provinces containing 132,000 square miles, and having a population of 98,000,000. The state of things in China was not that of two parties struggling on a question of great principle or government. If it were, the policy of Her Majesty's Government would be clear. A comparison had been made that evening between the state of things in China and that which prevailed in America. But did such a comparison hold good for a moment? The Taepings were able to form no Government. No one could read what had been said of them by men who had had experience in China, without coming to the conclusion that they were hostes humani generis. The hon. Member for Brighton had quoted the opinions of Vice Admiral Hope and Mr. Bruce in a contrary sense. But the despatches to which the hon. Member referred were written a long time ago, and Vice Admiral Hope and Mr. Bruce had since that time completely changed their opinions, and 56 were now of opinion that we must take either one side or the other. Such being the state of things, and looking upon the Taepings as pirates, what course was Her Majesty' Government to pursue? He would briefly explain what they had done, what policy they had laid down, the policy which they intended to persevere in, and in which he believed they would be supported by the mass of the people of this country. No treaty with the Taepings was possible; they did not know the value of obligations made with Governments. As long as they thought they could delude Europeans in such a manner as that they might be permitted to carry on their system of blasphemy, rapine, and murder, they were quite willing to express the best intentions; but when they found that such a policy would not do, they declined to admit any obligations. The Imperial Government represented the principle of order, as contradistinguished from the principle of disorder. The Imperial Government held the greater part of the country. The House must remember that China was almost as large as Europe. The population was about 500,000,000; and as the Taepings could not be considered to number more than were said to compose the Taeping army—namely, 400,000—it would at once be seen that by far the largest portion of China was under the rule of the Imperial Government. Her Majesty's Government did not intend to defend the Imperial Government against revolution. What they did intend to defend were British subjects and British interests; while they would do the best they could, by means of moral support, to enable the Imperial Government to maintain itself, and defend itself against revolution. Her Majesty's Government would give the Imperial Government distinctly to understand that they were not fighting for it, and that it was bound to maintain and defend itself; but to the Imperial Government, as representing the principle of order, they would give their sympathy, advice, and assistance. If he had been asked a year or two ago whether such a policy was possible, he might have thought it doubtful; but he wished the House to understand that a great change had taken place in China within the last few months. Until lately they had no access to head-quarters, and everything done by Europeans was misrepresented at Pekin. The Emperor never knew the truth, and a false impression prevailed, not only at Pekin, but 57 throughout the whole country. However, that difficulty had recently been overcome owing to the admirable tact, judgment, and ability of Mr. Bruce. There was, also, at the head of affairs in China a man of great enlightenment, the Prince Kung. He had reached that position by a coup d'état, but there he was. It was, of course, impossible to change the habits of 500,000,000 of people in a day or in a few months; but there were manifest indications of improvement. Nevertheless, they had obtained many valuable concessions from the new Government. There was no point which was more contested with reference to the Treaty of Pekin than that of the coasting trade; but Mr. Bruce having represented the matter to Prince Kung, he had conceded both the right of engaging in the coasting trade and that of exporting breadstuffs from China—a concession of immense value and importance. The hon. Member for Brighton seemed to be under the impression that the despatches sent out to China contained peculiar postscripts, conveying different impressions to the directions in the despatches themselves. Now, nothing was more contrary to the fact. The policy of the Government had been adopted after the most mature consideration, and after being informed by their agents in China that it was the only sound policy which could be adopted They had told the Chinese Government that they could not help them by any interference in the country; but that as the English Government had treaty rights with respect to certain ports, they would defend them, and do all that was necessary to prevent them falling into the hands of the Taepings. The first step which was taken was to assist the Chinese in putting their finances in order. There was an enormous trade in China, but the customs were so badly managed that but a small portion of the duties ever reached the treasury. The Chinese Government asked the English agents to organize a system of collecting these customs, and, in his judgment, Lord Elgin had no alternative but to do as he did say—"There are English gentlemen here who can assist you; take them into your employment." They placed these English gentlemen at the head of the customs, and also engaged some Frenchmen and subjects of the United States. To give an idea of the frauds which were committed, not by respectable commercial houses in China, but by reckless and worthless per- 58 sons there, and the detection and prevention of which might have given rise to some of the animosity which had been referred to, he would mention two or three cases. In one instance an invoice was received of sixty-one hogsheads of coals, which coals, upon examination, were found to be copper, an article the import of which into China was prohibited. In another case a parcel, which was invoiced as umbrellas, hosiery, and stereoscopes, was found to consist of double-barrelled guns; and to crown all, a magnificent assortment of Bibles and Prayer Books turned out to be percussion caps. Under the new system such frauds as those would be rendered impossible, and the Government had received assurances from some of the most respectable merchants in China that it was working well, that the revenue was considerably increased, and that China would under the new system be enabled to pay the debts and indemnities which she owed to us and to other countries. An hon. Friend of his found a good deal of fault with him the other night for not producing what he had not got—a list of the Englishmen in the employment of the Chinese Government. He had written to Mr. Bruce, and had asked him to obtain the list. When it was received, he presumed that no one would desire that all the Englishmen should leave the service of the Chinese, and abandon the whole control of the trade to the French and Americans. The hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir L. Palk) had wasted a good deal of eloquence upon Mr. Ward. He believed that Gentleman was concerned in some of those expeditions which obtained considerable notoriety in Southern America; but in China, so far as he was aware, he had done nothing discreditable to himself, or that warranted the expressions which the hon. Baronet had used with regard to him. On the contrary, it appeared that he had organized a very effective body of Chinese, who had fought very well, and whose organization, as forming the nucleus of an army, Mr. Bruce and Admiral Hope regarded as so important that they said that it was the first step towards the restoration of order in China. It was the want of proper organization which had led to the commission of those atrocities by the Chinese irregular troops; and the first step towards putting an end to that state of things was to organize a regular army, furnish the troops with proper artillery and weapons, and make the officers responsible 59 for their conduct. The Chinese Government asked the English Government to allow them to purchase any arms which they might require, in order that they might organize a body of men for their defence, and to that the Government had assented. That was the second step which had been taken by the Government. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen had referred to statements in an anonymous letter to the Herald that the troops under the command of Mr. Ward had committed the most horrible atrocities; and led the House to believe that British officers, if they did not actually sanction, had taken no steps to prevent their commission. He did not know who was the writer of that letter; but as he knew of his own knowledge that one half of the letter was a gross falsehood, he concluded that the other half was equally untrue. Be that as it might, this he ventured to affirm, that no British officer, no British gentleman, nay, no Englishman, whatever he might be, would have stood by and witnessed the commission of atrocities such as those which were described in the letter, without interfering to prevent them.
The third step taken by the English Government to assist the Imperial Government of China was to sanction the employment of British naval officers in Chinese waters. The Taepings, who never stopped in any place after they had plundered and ravaged it, were moving towards Chusan. If they obtained possession of that place, they would soon have the rivers swarming with pirates, and commerce would be destroyed. More than that, they were bound by treaty to assist the Chinese Government in the suppression of piracy; and, both as a matter of economy and a matter of humanity, it was better to take steps to put an end to incipient piracy, to permit a few English officers, paid by the Chinese, to command vessels bought by the Chinese, rather than run the risk of having, at a future period, to send out a large fleet to protect trade and fulfil treaty engagements. That was not the first time that English officers had been permitted to take service under foreign Powers. The same thing had been done in Spain and elsewhere. A very distinguished officer, Captain Sherard Osborn, he understood, was going out to China. No one could for a moment suppose that Captain Osborn was likely to be guilty of any cruelty. On the contrary, he would be sure to act as a British seaman 60 and gentleman usually did act under any circumstances. His mission would be to put down piracy, and no doubt he would accomplish it. The wisest thing the Chinese Government could do would be to engage the services of such an officer, and place a squadron at his command. The Chinese Government had entered most seriously into that policy. They had liberally given money, and had accepted our advice. For the first time in Chinese history the Government of the Emperor were acting cordially with foreigners, and were practically recognising their position in the Empire. It had been said that the rebels did not injure commerce in China, and that the policy which Her Majesty's Government had adopted was contrary to the interests of British merchants. It was all very well to quoted the allegations of anonymous correspondents to that effect, but he would cite the testimony of the Committee of the British Chamber of Commerce at Shanghai, and of its chairman, Mr. Webb. In February, 1862, Mr. Webb wrote that the Committee desired to record its opinion that the depression of trade at Shanghai at a period when it was usually very brisk, was directly attributable to the presence of the Taepings in that province. [Colonel SYKES: It was from Mr. Bruce's letters that I quoted.] The testimony of Mr. Webb and the Chamber of Commerce was the most reliable that could be obtained on such a subject. It was said that the tea trade had not been interfered with. The Chamber of Commerce of Shanghai, on the other hand, asserted that no tea had been brought to the port since the early part of 1860, when the rebels captured Soochow, and the line of the Imperial canal up to Karhing, excepting what was sent from Ningpo, and what since last April had come down the Yang-tze-Kiang river. It was important to recollect that the tea which was brought down by the Yang-tze-Kiang did not pass through the provinces occupied by the rebels. Hankow, which was situated on that river, lately fell into the hands of the rebels, and the population fled. The Taepings, after a little while, finding there was nothing more to despoil, withdrew from the town, and the inhabitants returned. The Consul wrote that the increase of trade at Hankow since it had again become an Imperial possession was almost incredible. In the quarter ending the 30th of June the imports were 870,000 taels, and the exports 212,000 taels. In the half-year, 61 ending September 30th the imports were 1,467,000 taels, and the exports 1,557,000 taels. In the half-year ending October 31st the imports were 2,407,000, and the exports 2,547,871 taels. Those results were entirely due to the departure of the Taepins. It was alleged, moreover, that the exportation of silk had increased. The Committee of the Chamber of Commerce of Shanghai reported as follows:—The town of Nan-tsin, the centre of the silk trade, has been burnt, and was occupied three several times by the rebels, and no doubt a considerable quantity of seed has been lost, although it is impossible to obtain reliable information as to the amount. During the past season silk has been passed through to Shanghai to some extent, the short distance between this port and the silk country greatly favouring its transit. Many boats, however, have been robbed of it. In other cases large sums have been paid as ransom, and the insecurity of life and property in the country has, with these other causes, added much to its cost, and the export has thus fallen off some 14,000 bales, as compared with the same period of the preceding season.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Member does not appear to be aware of one of the most ordinary rules of debate. He has no right to interrupt a speaker who is in possession of the House. When the hon. Gentleman has concluded, the hon. and Gallant Member will be at liberty to make an explanation.
§ MR. LAYARD
said, he would further read the following letter, dated the 5th of April, 1862, which had been received from the agent of the well-known firm of Lindsay and Co., of Shanghai:—It will be impossible to draw back now. As usual, there are always some people who carp at this policy, and some who object only to the way in which it is done; arguing that we are exciting the animosity of the rebels, and that they will revenge themselves on the mulberry-trees, greatly to the prejudice of our trade. This, of course, is the special point of view from which people here are apt to look at this matter, but men who have State interests to care for must take a much wider grasp of present emergencies, and cut out their line of policy not for the exclusive benefit of one class, or even one generation of merchants, but for the ultimate benefit of all. This conflict has been dragging on for twelve years, with no result but the devastation of the country and the ruin of trade. Our interests demand that one of the parties be destroyed, and as the Imperialists have at least the traditions of a Government, there is more hope of their reviving than of any of the insurgent parties coming to anything. And now the new Government of Pekin has turned over a new leaf, and is no longer willing to be deceived by lying mandarins. Large bodies of 'braves' are coming down the Yang-tze in steamers. These will garrison the places we may recapture from 62 the rebels; and if we only keep on the move, with the 'braves' in our trail, the rebellion will be put down much sooner than most people seem to think. As to the animosity of the rebels, it is a mere bugbear; they have never had any friendly feeling to us, and since they discovered we did not care to espouse their cause, they have not taken the trouble to profess friendship to us.It was a mistake to suppose that they had committed an act of war against the Taepings. Their favourite mode of attack was to approach a town gradually, devastating the country as they advanced. Then they smuggled some of their agents into the town; fires broke out mysteriously, quarters were burnt down, and panics were excited. When the people were in a fever of alarm, the assault was made, and the place fell into the hands of the rebels. That was the plan they adopted at Shanghai, and it was to defeat it that General Mitchell, General Staveley, and Admiral Hope, with the concurrence of the French military authorities, determined that the rebels must be kept beyond a radius of thirty miles, in order to insure the safety of the place. That radius was proposed by Admiral Hope to the Taeping chief at Nankin, and accepted by him. With regard to the Indian troops sent to Shanghae, Her Majesty's Government had received no information, but it was probable that the troops withdrawn from Tien-tsin might have been sent there. He believed that the policy pursued by the Government was the one best calculated to prevent war. They had no sympathy with the Imperial Government, but they sympathized with the great mass of the Chinese population, who were the most industrious people on the face of the earth. Let the House consider for a moment what would happen were they to allow the Taepings to take possession of the treaty ports. The only port they had to defend was Shanghai, for it was a mistake to suppose that they would have to defend the sixteen treaty ports at once, as the Taepings followed no regular system of warfare, and could not assail more than one place at a time. If the Taepings got possession of any of the treaty ports, would they respect our treaties? Not at all. England had no treaties with them, and, besides, experience proved that they did not appreciate the nature of bonds and obligations. The result would be, that unless they were prepared to give up their whole policy and all which they had obtained by great sacrifices of blood and treasure, they would be compelled to make war on the Tae- 63 pings and the Chinese Government as well. The only chance of preserving peace and avoiding falling into war was to maintain the treaty ports, to defend them because they had an interest in them, and to give all the support which they could to the Imperial Government in putting down a rebellion which was spreading devastation and ruin throughout that vast empire. He believed that was the true policy to pursue, and the only policy consistent with British interests and the great interests of humanity.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, the hon. Gentleman accused him of making a statement not founded in fact, whereas he quoted from Mr. Bruce's despatch.
§ MR. COBDEN
If I had felt some apprehension with regard to our relations with China before my hon. Friend the Under Secretary spoke, my apprehensions must be very much increased by what he has stated. He told the House that he would inform us what was the past and what was the present policy of Her Majesty's Ministers. I confess he has left me in somewhat of a haze as to that policy; but, if I understand him correctly, I think he has promised us engagements which, as has been truly said by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, we are likely to hear of for some time to come, and I think I may add, very likely our children after us. There is one fallacy running through the whole of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary's speech. It is when he speaks of the Chinese Government. Now, there is no Government in China. Any hon. Gentleman who has read these blue-books with attention must have arrived at the conclusion that literally there is no Government exercising supreme authority in the Chinese Empire. What does the hon. Gentleman tell us? The Taepings, he says, are not rebels in the ordinary sense of the word. It is not a civil war which is raging in China. It is a band of marauders to which not one man of respectability or fortune has given in his adhesion, and that band of marauders spreads over the land, captures great cities containing 1,000,000 inhabitants, and the Chinese Government at Pekin is absolutely powerless to afford the slightest protection to the people. That is the position of China at this time. How has it been brought about? Although it is somewhat historical, and this House does not like historical arguments of remote origin, yet it is necessary to bear in mind the inci- 64 dents of the last few years, and to see how those incidents bear on present events. It is necessary for me to call to mind what is stated on the highest authority in the blue-books lately presented to Parliament, that the destruction of the Chinese Government has been the consequence of the last two wars in which England, or England united with France, have been engaged. If there is any subject upon which all writers familiar with the history of China for the last few years are agreed, it is that those wars have precipitated the fall of the Imperial Government. That strange people seem to have been governed by a kind of pasteboard and painted authority. Certain high-sounding phrases were uttered from some mythical authority at Pekin, which were obeyed throughout the land by a somewhat mechanical and materialist population, simply because they found they were living in a state of order, and therefore with a sort of practical instinct they did not choose to inquire more about the power of the Government under which they were living in prosperity and happiness. But one of the fundamental principles upon which the Imperial Government founded its authority was the belief implanted in an isolated and ignorant people—ignorant, I mean, as to the outside world—that no authority was superior to that which ruled at Pekin. We invaded that country. We showed that there was another power greater than that of Pekin, and we destroyed the prestige by which the Chinese Government was maintained. The consequence has been the gradual weakening of the central authority until it has come to this state of things, that literally there is no Government in China. I think it is right that the people of this country, and the House which represents the people, should know these facts, and should not forget them, because I am one who believes that the affairs of this world are ruled by a just Providence, and, as far as the affairs of nations are concerned, I believe they are governed upon a principle of retributive justice. I believe, that if you carry wrong and injury to the most distant part of the globe, the wrong and injury will re-act upon yourselves. When I heard the hon. Gentleman describe how we were undertaking the protection and defence of sixteen treaty ports, with a radius of thirty miles round each; when I imagined what the operations of active and energetic naval and military commanders would be, I 65 thought I foresaw the retribution for our conduct of the last few years.
I am so anxious that it should be known under what circumstances we have engaged in these wars with China, that I wish to correct a misstatement of the noble Lord, with reference to the origin of the last war. With the origin of the last war but one we are all acquainted. It was the lorcha affair of 1856, upon which no sensible or honest Englishman ought to reflect without a blush. But that war was renewed in 1859, and I wish to correct an erroneous statement made by the noble Viscount when I was absent from the House, which alone excuses me for referring to what took place in a former Session. On the 14th of February, 1861, the noble Viscount, in moving a vote of thanks to the army for their conduct during the last Chinese war, said—It is well known that the operations in China arose from the refusal of the Chinese Government to ratify the treaty of Tien-tsin which had been concluded between the two countries. It became necessary to obtain the ratification of that treaty. The French and English Governments both concurred in that necessity, and each sent a force to obtain it; but both Governments resorted, in the first place, to persuasion and diplomacy to insure their object. Both Governments sent their representatives to China before they had recourse to extreme measures, to endeavour to persuade the Chinese Government to fulfil the obligations which it had contracted; and it was not till every effort was made, and it was evident that nothing but force would obtain the ratification of those engagements, that force was resorted to. [3 Hansard, clxi., 401.]I beg to recall to the noble Viscount's memory that the last war did not originate because the Chinese Government refused to ratify the treaty entered into with the Earl of Elgin. The treaty was ratified. The war was renewed because Mr. Bruce insisted on going one way to Pekin, and the Chinese Government insisted upon his going another. And in the history of diplomacy, from the beginning of the world, I should think there was not another instance of a war being provoked, not because a treaty was not ratified, but because the Plenipotentiary insisted upon going in a particular direction to the capital of the friendly State with which the treaty was made. The noble Lord fell into another error. It is well known that the American Plenipotentiary went to Pekin by land, and he went in a carriage of the country which the noble Lord, seeking to justify his own conduct, characterized as a box. It was 66 said that Mr. Ward as shut up in a box so that he could not see the country through which he travelled. I have seen Mr. Ward within the last few weeks, and, referring to the subject, he said a gallant Officer in this House had a letter from him, complaining of the gross misrepresentation of the noble Lord. Mr. Ward said that he was taken in the same carriage in which a Prime Minister would have travelled if he wished to be moved through the country; and so far from being shut up, saddle horses accompanied the carriage, and he was invited to mount whenever he liked to take that mode of varying the means of transit. I have to complain of the habitual inexactness of the noble Viscount's statements. I do not accuse him of wilful misrepresentation, but what I charge him with is a want of carefulness in informing himself before making these statements. Such rashness and recklessness would be very bad in a private Member, but it is inexcusable when practised by the noble Lord in the high and responsible position which he occupies. After all, this is of the past, and the only practical question is, "What shall be our policy for the future?" That question can only be solved by asking another. "Why are we in China at all? Why do we go to China? What are we in China for?" Not to assist the Emperor to put down rebels, or to collect the duties of foreign custom-houses. We go to China to obtain yearly 80,000,000 lb. or 90,000,000 lb. of tea and 60,000 or 80,000 bales of silk. What is the best way of obtaining those commodities at the least possible cost? In my opinion, the most proper mode of obtaining them is to leave the merchants, as much as possible to carry on their own operations, and to have as little contact as possible between the two Governments. That is the wise policy to pursue. There has been a fallacy running through all our operations in China, and it is this—we have been under the impression that it is necessary, in order to transact business in China, that we should penetrate—"open, up," as it is vulgarly called—China. There never was a greater fallacy than that idea. The Chinese are the most commercial people in the world. You have only to let a Chinaman see a chance of profit, and he will apply himself to the best means of obtaining it better than any man in the world. I have heard from people who have lived long in China, and carried on business there, that the 67 Chinese are so skilful, not only at their own interior business, but at foreign trade also, that they have spread themselves over the whole East, and that at such places as Singapore and Manilla they have superseded all rivals. I have lately seen a gentleman from San Francisco, who told me that nearly the whole of the trade between California and China was in the hands of a few Chinamen, having their houses of business at San Francisco. This gentleman asked, "Can it be necessary that you Englishmen, not speaking a word of Chinese, should go into the interior to carry on business with the Chinamen, when they are so well able to carry on business themselves, not only in China, but everywhere else?" He believed, that if a Chinaman were to come and establish himself in London as a tea merchant, he would beat all rivals here. How do you carry on business with Russia? Englishmen do not go into the interior of Russia to buy and sell with the people. Your merchant goes to Riga or St. Petersburg, or to Odessa, and there he has transactions with the manufacturers or agriculturists of the interior, but he never thinks of penetrating into the interior himself. Apply the same principle to China. Abandon the idea that you will increase trade by penetrating into the interior; content yourselves with stations on the coast, and as few of them as possible; and, whether you are at one extremity of the empire or the other, be assured that the instincts of gain and the cleverness of that ingenious people will find you out, will bring their commodities, and take yours if it suits them. There is another fallacy overriding all our ideas in regard to China. We look at that people with something like awe, on account of their vast numbers and the immense territory which they occupy. We think that there must necessarily be a large commerce with a people so numerous. I remember when we first commenced this system of warfare with China in 1840, and when we first made peace with them in 1842, that some of my Manchester friends said, "If every Chinaman only bought a nightcap, it would keep all our mills going." That is the sort of idea which has been entertained on the subject, and which has led us into these expensive Government operations. But really your trade in China, in spite of all your efforts—and, I will say, in spite of your crimes—is much more insignificant then many hon. Gentlemen are aware of. Take the five years from the year of 68 the Lorcha War, 1856 to 1861, and you will see by the Board of Trade returns that the exports of British manufacturers and products to China and Hong-Kong amount to an average of £3,700,000—half the trade with Holland. That is the result of these two wars, and the result, too, of an enormous Government expenditure; because, when you are carrying on operations on that coast, when the Government is incurring a vast expenditure, sometimes extorted from the Chinese, but a great deal more paid by the taxpayers of this country, there are naturally much larger exportations of goods than would take place under ordinary circumstances. But with all this your trade has only amounted to an average of £3,700,000 per annum. During the last two years the exports have considerably increased. They have amounted to an average of £5,000,000 per annum; but that has arisen from the most exaggerated anticipations on the part of our merchants of the advantages which would arise from the "opening up," as it is called, of China, by getting access to the great river and other parts of the country. I say, without fear of correction, in the presence of hon. Gentlemen who are interested in that trade, that this increase has arisen from a great deal of most unprofitable speculation. I am told that at this moment Manchester goods are selling in China for 20 per cent less than they cost in Manchester. If you look at the exports to China during the last twenty years, you will see that they are fluctuating. There is a period during which there is a war, or the completion of a treaty from which you anticipate a great addition to your commerce; then there is a sudden rise in the amount of your exports. It is followed by disappointment, which causes a collapse, and then the amounts fall. The commerce of China has not been elastic in the same sense as the trade with other countries. Our trade with other countries has doubled; but there is not that same tendency to grow in our trade with China. The reason is that the Chinese are a most industrious people; vast masses of them are poor; they pass every moment of their time in a most industrious manner, and they manage to produce for themselves, with surpassing industry, patience, and perseverance, at such a price that they do not afford that opening for your manufactures which you expected; and, besides that, they have not anything to give you in return. You want some 90,000,000lb. of 69 tea, and 60,000 or 80,000 bales of silk, and that is all you get from them. Whether we look to Japan or to China, there is a tendency to deceive ourselves; our imaginations are called in instead of practical, business-like calculations, and we are apt to exaggerate the value of these distant markets. If we take this moderate view of what there is to be done in China in the way of business, I would ask—Is it worth the risk of entering into the gigantic system of intermeddling which the hon. Gentleman has just disclosed? He has told us of three different plans; one is to take possession of the Chinese customhouses, and to collect their revenues; then we are to defend the treaty ports, and next to find the Chinese officers to drill their troops. I think, too, I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that we were to give them some advice with regard to their finances. When I heard that, I was somewhat amazed. We have sent a commission to look into the finances of Turkey. We have been interfering, too, lately with the finances of Morocco; and now we are undertaking to advise on the finances of Pekin. If this sort of meddling goes on much longer, I am afraid we shall want some shrewd Dutchman or Swiss to come over and look after our own financial affairs. Do not let the noble Viscount, who probably will favour us with a few words, entertain us as he did last night; do not let him say, "Here he is again, wanting, as usual, to abandon Englishmen in China, and give them up to all those cruel Taepings." If there is anybody in this House who may fairly lay claim at all events to the character of not being indifferent to the commerce of this country, or not caring insufficiently for merchants, it is the humble individual now addressing the House. When you have established your English merchants anywhere, you are bound to protect them, their lives, and their property, to the utmost extent of your power; but it would behove a wise nation not to seek to establish such merchants in positions where they are pretty sure to get involved in collisions with the people, and where their being established is not likely to lead to any national advantage. I say national advantage, because I can imagine a policy to be observed by a country in which individuals might gain in some distant region, but at a vast sacrifice to the nation, and that is not a policy which a wise nation should pursue. But, coming to the practical remedy for this state of things, 70 if we have not gone too far for a remedy—and I am not sure that the noble Viscount has not dragged us so near to the edge of the precipice that even his famous dexterity will not get us out of the vortex—we should do that which we ought to have done from the first—to have as little contact with the people as possible, to leave business as much as possible to the merchants, and to have no political contact with the Government at all. You have there sixteen treaty ports. It is a fact acknowledged by practical men, merchants who know the subject well, that you may detach yourselves from a great number of those ports with no disadvantage to commerce, and you would, at the same time, rid yourselves of a great risk of collision with the people. I would therefore withdraw from as many of those ports as I found were not useful, advantageous, or necessary, and I would concentrate the trade of the empire in as few places as possible. I have been speaking to-night with a gentleman in this House, who is now under this roof, who has been accustomed to supply probably one-third of the goods which have gone to China from this country for several years past. His opinion is, that if at first you had taken two or three places on the coast of China—I do not mean seized them—but by agreement with the Chinese Government; if, for instance, you had taken a free port at Shanghai, another at Chusan, say, or some other point on the coast midway, and another in the neighbourhood of Canton; if you had confined yourselves to these three ports, had separated yourselves from the vast empire, and had not undertaken to collect their revenue, you would have done as much trade as you have done, you would have sold as many goods as you have sold, and at hardly more expense than you are at now in carrying on business at Singapore. That is the advice of a merchant of great experience in the China trade; but if I were to take the opinion of any merchant or manufacturer, I should not select in preference those who are engaged in business in China. Most of them have not lived more than seven years in that country, and some of them are young merchants who have rash and speculative views. Many of the richest merchants in China are suspected, not without reason, of carrying on a system of trade of which Englishmen cannot be proud, and of the duration of which we should not be confident. Their influence has, I 71 fear, often led us to embark in many of these expeditions, for where we have produced confusion there they have had a chance of carrying on a clandestine trade. This, however, is not a question affecting merchants and manufacturers only, but affecting this whole nation, and also this House. What I state in conclusion is, that the announcement just made by the hon. Member will cause every one to look with apprehension to the future for himself and for his children. Here are between 400,000,000 and 500,000,000 persons in the empire of China who are now without a Government. You are now taking the first step to put yourselves in the position of that Government, and every step you take you will find it more difficult to withdraw from, while every step will involve you in a fresh responsibility. The more you intermeddle, the less will the Imperial Government have the power of controlling the rebels; and recollect that all your interference will prevent the only remedy for anarchy and confusion in any State. Leave that empire to its own resources, and the suffering which must arise out of the present state of anarchy will sufficiently prove to the people of China the necessity of some new organization, and they will be led by the instinct of their nature to find some leader who will give them peace and order, and establish their Government on some durable basis.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, there are some things in the speech of the hon. Member who has just sat down with which I entirely agree; there are many things in which I unfortunately cannot concur. In the beginning of his speech he reverted to a discussion which took place on a former occasion on the subject of our differences with the Chinese Government, and the war which took place thereon. Well, the hon. Member has a right to retain his opinion as to the justice and policy of those matters, and he will permit me to retain mine, which differs diametrically from his. And it would be wasting the time of this House if, in the year 1862, I were to enter into a discussion upon the merits of a war that took place several years before. However, this I say, that if it be true, as the hon. Gentleman says, that we did an injury to the Government of China—if it be true, as he contends, that the war which we then undertook, in vindication, as I think, of our just rights, did undermine the authority of the Imperial Government, and was the cause of 72 the success of the Taepings, then, on the principle that there is a just Providence, which inflicts retribution upon those who commit wrong and refuse redress, we are bound now to do everything in our power to make amends to that Imperial Government for the injury they then sustained, to place their finances in a better condition, and to reinstate them in that position which, according to the hon. Gentleman, it was our fault and our crime to have shaken. Therefore, I think one of the hon. Gentleman's arguments refutes the other. The hon. Gentleman refers to a statement I made some two years ago, as to the way in which Mr. Ward, the then American Minister, was carried from Taku to Pekin. The hon. Gentleman says Mr. Ward went in a cart which I described as a box. He says that Mr. Ward denies that assertion of mine, and of course I accept his denial. What I stated was on what I believed to be good information at the time—that which I heard and read. I believe there are three modes of travelling in China, according to the rank of the individual. The most distinguished is that of the sedan chair, which is used by great people exclusively. The next is on horseback, which is used for the greater part of distinguished persons, and by military men. The third mode is by that very uncomfortable conveyance which I have been informed carried Mr. Ward to Pekin—a conveyance in which those officers of the British mission who were captured in the last war were carried, and which they described as inflicting the most horrible torture they had ever endured. The hon. Gentleman says Mr. Ward now and then thought it pleasanter to ride on horseback than to remain in his vehicle, and it was therefore possible that it was not quite so commodious as the hon. Gentleman imagines. The hon. Member says that the last war was not undertaken in any degree on account of the refusal of the Chinese Government to ratify the Earl of Elgin's treaty. He asserts that the treaty was ratified. Undoubtedly it was; but not at first. It was completed, but only after they were compelled to ratify it. The war was not undertaken solely because Mr. Bruce was not allowed to go to Pekin; but because the Emperor refused to ratify certain articles of that treaty, which he said must be changed before they could be carried out. Therefore in that respect the information of the hon. Member has 73 been erroneous. [Mr. COBDEN: No.] I think the hon. Member will find it so if he looks back. [Mr. COBDEN: I have looked back.] As to our relations with China, I quite agree with the hon. Member as to the fundamental principle on which our relations with that Court should be conducted. The hon. Member says we go there to trade; we do not go for the purpose of conquest. Our merchants go there, not to set aside the Government, but they go on the faith of treaties. They go to trade, and you are bound to protect them in the places to which they go. That duty applies to China as well as to other parts of the world, and therefore the steps taken to protect our merchants in China are just as necessary and as much a part of the duty of the Government as similar steps taken with respect to our merchants in any other part of the world. The hon. Member says the transactions of our merchants ought not to be merely for their personal benefit, but for the public interest. Why, any transactions of commerce that are beneficial to the merchants who conduct them must also be beneficial to the community from which they spring. The hon. Member also says that it is a great mistake for our merchants to ask for access into the interior, and that they ought to be content to station themselves on the ports on the sea-coast, where the natives might come to trade with them; and that it is not necessary to do anything more than hold out their hands to receive the goods which the natives would bring to them. Well, that does not happen to be the opinion of the English merchants in China. They attach very great importance to having access to the centres of production, and to having the privilege of going into the interior, by the Yang-tze-Kiang. They think they transact their business better by going to the great and flourishing cities on the banks of that river, instead of waiting at Shanghai, Ningpo, and the former treaty ports. Is that a peculiar opinion and prejudice? Why, it is the general practice of merchants of all nations. The hon. Member is well acquainted with the manner in which commerce is conducted in Manchester. Well, are there not a great number of Greek merchants in Manchester, carrying on commerce between England and Greece, and actually taking that commerce out of the hands of British houses, because they conduct it in a more advantageous manner than did the former 74 British houses doing business in the Levant. At least, I am so informed. I think there is a manifest advantage in our merchants gaining access to the interior, rather than remaining on the coast.
The hon. Member has said it is a remarkable circumstance, that though the population of China is so large, our commerce with that country has not increased with the rapidity that might have been expected from the beginning. While I congratulated the House upon the treaties of commerce, beginning with the original treaty with China, I certainly warned both the House and the country not to be too sanguine as to the realization of any great and early increase of commerce founded on that trade, because we know that commercial intercourse takes some time to establish itself. We know there were internal custom-houses in China which opposed obstacles to commerce, and the tendency of which was to confine the delivery of produce to a narrow zone of the sea coast. That system is, however, now broken by the treaty which permits the English merchant in China to go to the seats of commerce in the interior. A great deal of the difficulty under which we laboured in China was caused by the Government that existed up to the death of the late Emperor. He was surrounded by men who were adverse to intercourse with foreigners, and they exerted their authority to prevent our having any real useful intercourse with the natives. It was not the population of Canton that did not wish for intercourse with foreigners, because, as we have since found when acting in conjunction with our allies, the French, that intercourse was established on the most friendly footing possible. It was the Mandarin authorities acting under the direction of the central Government that opposed themselves to that intercourse. But that state of things, happily, is at an end. The policy of China now is directed by Prince Kung, a most enlightened man, in the vigour of youth, anxious to learn, and opposed to the narrow-minded prejudices which swayed those who, in the last reign, directed the destinies of the country. But Prince Kung, from the intercourse which he has had with Mr. Bruce, and other enlightened men with whom he has come in contact, is quite aware that communication with foreigners will lay the foundation for that improvement of China which would so much delight him to witness, and for the benefit of its inhabitants. But that 75 cannot be done without foreigners have access to the capital. The hon. Gentleman underrates the value of that access. I can assure him that it would be the foundation of a great improvement in our commercial intercourse with China. Then, again, he says we ought not to interfere in aiding this enlightened Prince in putting the finances of the country in better order. He finds fault with us for having given facilities to the Turkish Government to improve their finances, and for having given facilities to the Morocco Government to improve theirs, and in the liberality of his heart he offers a Dutch financier to assist my right hon. Friend in putting the finances of this country in a better condition. I think we have nothing to learn from Holland in that respect. I think we have nothing to justify in the aid which we are willing to give Prince Kung, because the act is a praiseworthy one. I think the hon. Gentleman himself would be one of the first to admit that no country can be prosperous if the state of its finances be not healthy and sound. Well, Sir, I say that it was quite proper and very useful that we should assist the Chinese Government in the honest disposition of their customs duties. It is well known that the greatest abuses and corruption prevailed in regard to those customs duties. It is well known that it was a very common thing for custom-house officers to connive at the doings of foreign merchants, to enter into a bargain with them, to go shares with them; and the merchants and the officers used to divide between them what ought to have been paid into the Imperial treasury, which received only a very small portion of the customs to which it was entitled. Well, since the arrangement between the Chinese and ourselves has been made, the customs have been honestly received, and the Imperial Government has derived the benefit. But it is not surprising that those persons in the ports who have lost the profits which they made before out of their frauds upon the Government should write anonymous letters to newspapers, and anonymous letters to Members of Parliament, and endeavour to get up a cry against the new system, by which they are sufferers, but by which the Chinese Government are likely to benefit. I say, therefore, that we were right in doing what we did. But the hon. Member complains of what he calls a plan of general interference on our part, which, he says, 76 threatens a great and gigantic war. What we are doing to produce war with China I am at a loss to know. If we were doing that which was hostile to the Government, or which was likely to create diplomatic differences between us and the Imperial Government, I could understand his complaint. But how we are likely to bring on a war by assisting the Government, at its own request, to establish its authority and improve its revenue, the hon. Member forgot to tell us before he sat down. Well, then, the hon. Gentleman spoke of the commercial benefit which we were likely to derive from intercourse with China as inconsiderable. But nobody can deny, though the hon. Gentleman rather underrates the matter, that our intercourse with a great empire, which contains nearly 300,000,000 inhabitants, must, in the long run, be advantageous to this country. He says the goods sent to China have not paid for the cost of production and transport. But is that the case only with China? I think I have heard that not long ago some of our Manchester manufacturers found it worth while to send to India to buy up goods which they had sent out there, and this they did for the purpose of reselling them again at a profit after paying all the expenses of bringing them home. If our goods did not find a ready market in China, it was owing to the circumstance that there was a great glut in the Chinese cotton market. At one time a foreign market is understocked, and the profit is great; at another time it is overstocked, and then there may be a loss. But that is not a peculiarity of our intercourse with China; it is the rough and the smooth which merchants must expect to meet with in their commercial transactions with foreign countries, and it occurs at home as well as abroad. Well, then, if it is likely that our commerce with China will become of great advantage to this country, it is quite plain that it cannot become so while China is in a state of disorder and confusion in consequence of the atrocities of the Taepings. My hon. Friend the Under Secretary has so fully described the character of the Taepings and their proceedings, that I shall not go over the ground which he has so well trodden. He has shown to demonstration that, so far from its being possible to enter into any useful and stable relations with them, they are a rope of sand, a band of marauders, incapable of establishing any Government, and persons with whom it is quite impossible from the nature of things 77 that any permanent and useful relations should be formed. That is not the case with the Imperial Government; and therefore, if by the means which my hon. Friend has explained we are able to give that Government sufficient power and vigour to enable it by its own energies and authority to re-establish its supremacy and to put down a rebellion which carries devastation wherever it goes, we are doing that which is not only advantageous to the interests of China, but to the interests of England herself. But my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton and my hon. and gallant Friend behind me (Colonel Sykes) say, "Why not act towards the Chinese Government and the Taepings as you act with regard to the Federals and Confederates of America? I wish to know which is it, the Confederates or the Federals, which should be likened to the Taepings? I think, if Mr. Ward took amiss what I said of his journey to Pekin, Mr. Lincoln or Mr. Jefferson Davis would not feel obliged to the hon. Member who should compare those who acknowledged his authority with the Taepings. Well, then, I say, the course which Her Majesty's Government have taken is one calculated beyond all others to give protection to our merchants in the places where they are established, is calculated to assist the Chinese Government in restoring law and order, and therefore is eminently conducive to the promotion of our commercial interests in China. The hon. Gentleman says, "You are attempting to defend not only the town of Shanghai, but a radius of thirty miles around it." At the same time, it was admitted that the range of country which the Taepings occupy, which is very nearly all that they have passed over, is something like 1,000 miles. Well, if the Taepings occupy a range of 1,000 miles in diameter, they have no reason to complain of being excluded from an area of thirty miles round Shanghai. It is easy to say that it would be sufficient for every purpose to prevent them entering the town. But if they surrounded the town and prevented supplies entering it, you would not do the inhabitants much good by forbidding the enemy to enter it. It is quite plain that you must keep for the inhabitants a district around the town sufficient to supply them with what they want. That is all we are doing. We say to the Taepings, "We don't meddle with you, if you don't meddle with us. Go anywhere throughout the thousand miles which 78 you occupy, whether the country be populous and flourishing, as some say, or whether it be deserted and desolate, as is maintained by others; but do not come and disturb us in those cities of commerce which by treaty we are entitled to possess." That is the ground which the Government have taken up, and which I maintain we are justified in assuming. Therefore, I should hope that the House will not adopt the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, because it implies a censure upon a course of policy which I think not only undeserving of censure, but the only course which the Government could with propriety have pursued. I hope, then, that hon. Members having shown that they can sympathize with enemies, even with Taepings; that there are no crimes so great which they cannot pardon, no miscreants so detestable but that some feelings of humanity in their favour may be excited in the breasts of somebody; that there is no man so bad that some good quality cannot be given him, and that no man may commit such crimes but that somebody may take compassion on him—that being so, and my hon. Friends having shown that they can sympathize even with the lowest and basest of mankind, and having stated their views fully to the House, I hope they will be content with that, and will leave the Government to do what they are doing to improve the position of the British merchant.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
Sir, the noble Viscount has spoken on this question tonight with even more than his usual hilarity and vivacity, and I remember that during the Crimean war he never lost his spirits, or suffered the cheerfulness of his temper to be affected by the disasters which then overtook our soldiers. The noble Viscount says that he differs directly from the hon. Gentleman as to the policy of the first China war. Yes, and he differs also from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, from Earl Russell, and from the moat gifted men in the present Ministry. To night the noble Viscount had to vindicate a policy, and how has he done so? It seems that he has not repented of the past, but he forgot that every word of his present vindication was a censure of the past. What are his remedies for the present condition of affairs in China? He says that we have broken the authority of the empire, have emptied its exchequer, and now must interfere to replenish its exchequer, and restore its finances. And 79 how does he hope to effect that benevolent purpose? He says the present Emperor of China is willing to learn, and the present Prime Minister of England is willing to teach. Well, if the finances of China are in confusion, why should not the noble Viscount fulfil his benevolent purpose by lending that empire a chancellor of the exchequer to place the Celestial finances in as healthy and as flourishing a position as our own? The noble Viscount indicates that his policy is the restoration by English Government of law and order in China. He first makes war unjustly on China to maintain the honour of the English flag when no flag was insulted; and now, with a theology not even equal to his politics, when fairly reminded that an unjust war sometimes brings retribution with it, he says in effect, "We will make our peace with Providence by entering into this civil war in succession to our original war in China." Now, I warn him that this interference for the settlement of affairs in China, and the restoration of law and order there, will be an Herculean task. But the upshot of the noble Viscount's speech is that everything is right. He sometimes sneers at the Pope, and I do not mean to say that the Pope is infallible. But who ever heard the noble Viscount admit that he ever made the least mistake? So he is now quite satisfied with both the first and the second wars in China, in which I suppose he has the assent of the right hon. Gentlemen who sit beside him; and he looks forward with joy to the prospect still before us. With all deference, however, to the noble Viscount, he has not answered the the temperate argument of the hon. Member for Rochdale. "If," he says, "we did make war in China unjustly, we will now interfere there in order to remedy the mischief which that war created." That is a policy pregnant with danger, and one which, I venture to think, will never meet with the approbation of the House.
in reply said, he feared that, in establishing an embassy at Pekin, along with the French and Russian embassies, the noble Lord had made the Chinese capital another Constantinople, with all its petty diplomatic intrigues and jealousies. Neither the noble Lord nor the hon. Under Secretary had touched the real question, which was, who should pay for the intervention now determined on. He had no sympathy with the Taepings, but he had an earnest sympathy with the taxpayers 80 of this country, who would, no doubt, be called upon to defray the cost of the gigantic scheme of interference which had been portrayed that night. English officers were engaged in teaching the Chinese how to form a regular army and to use artillery, and the first endeavour of the new force, animated by recollections of the past, would probably be to expel their teachers from the country. The Emperor of China ruled over 360,000,000 or 400,000,000 people—a homogeneous people, because the Tartar element was absorbed—speaking one language and inspired by great love of country. If such a people learnt the improved military arts of Europe, what a part might they not play in the destinies of the world. The policy of interference which the Government were pursuing in the affairs of China was a perilous one, and no long time would elapse before it would be deeply regretted by the people of this country.
§ MR. WALPOLE
Sir, I cannot vote for a Motion which gives directions to the Government how they are to act in the future with regard to circumstances with which we are so imperfectly acquainted. I shall therefore vote against the Motion; but before giving that vote I cannot help making some remarks upon the policy announced to-night by the hon. Under Secretary, and confirmed by the noble Viscount. According to that policy, we are actually to take a part, to a great extent, in the civil war which is going on in China; we are endeavour to restore law and order in that great country; we are to give it our sympathy, our advice, our assistance—our sympathy with the views of the Emperor, our advice upon the state of the Chinese finances, our aid in collecting the revenue for the Imperial Government—and we are also to help the Imperial forces at the sixteen treaty ports where now we are at liberty to trade. If that be so, you are involving yourselves—I will not say in war, for war against the Government of China it would not be—but in hostilities of the worst description, for you will be absolutely liable to take part in the civil war now raging in China. The noble Viscount says, and says truly, that until the finances of a country are put into a healthy state, no Government can carry on its intercourse with other countries, because the very dilapidated state of these finances prevents trade and commerce from being so carried on. But I beg the noble Viscount to consider, 81 that although we may not be engaged in war with China, yet if we increase our forces there, and undertake any military and naval operations, while endeavouring to assist the finances of China, we shall put our own in great jeopardy. It is to guard myself against any supposition that I would support the kind of policy announced to-night from the Treasury Bench, that I wish to state in these very few words, that while voting against the Motion, I hope I shall not be considered as supporting or endorsing, or in any way giving countenance to a policy which, I think, involves us in very heavy pecuniary expenses, as well as in great political embarrassments.
§ MR. LAYARD
explained that he had not said that the British Government were giving advice to the Chinese Government in financial matters, or aiding in the collection of the Chinese revenue. All he had said was, that English subjects were allowed to be employed and paid by the Chinese Government in connection with financial manners.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
Sir, I so entirely agree with the opinions expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole), that I cannot, like my right hon. Friend, abstain from giving the vote which I intended to give. The speech of my right hon. Friend contained, I think, a just and perfect criticism of the statement of the hon. Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and I so thoroughly agree with my right hon. Friend in the results which I think will inevitably follow from this untoward policy in China that I feel myself compelled to give my vote in favour of the Motion of the hon. Member for Brighton.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 88; Noes 197: Majority 109.