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Table of Contents

Facing-both-ways, the Company resolutely looked one way and rowed the other. A sailing fleet of some of the finest clippers ever built carried the drug to China ; their successful voyages were duly chronicled in the Indian papers. In its infancy the trade sought shelter in the Portuguese settlement at Macao, but the reception was not a kindly one, and the opium ships went instead to Whampoa.

Here the pressure of corrupt Chinese officials proved too severe, and for a time the storeships were moved to Lintin amongst the network of islands at the mouth of the Canton River. These ships were floating batteries, protected with large guns, small arms, 1 China Trade Report, The drug, taken out of the chests on board ship, was put into bags for easier transfer, and smuggled on shore in fast boats, known as " crabs," manned in the earlier years of the century by Chinese, but later by desperadoes of other races, armed to the teeth.

The spread of the opium habit along the coast was assisted by trading voyages undertaken for this purpose. He was followed by Mr.


Matheson, then acting as Danish Consul at Canton, who proceeded in as far as Chin-chow, some miles up the coast, without making any profit that trip; but he developed a considerable trade on sending a ship to the same ports next year. After another successful voyage, the mandarins intervened on behalf of the laws of the land ; they burned the houses of those who dealt with the foreign smugglers, and stopped the trade for the time. Better financial results attended similar voyages to Amoy. Innes is said to have made , dollars in one voyage in Majoribanks, emulating him, entirely failed, " because the drug was comparatively unknown.

The officials, in the vast majority of cases, were successfully corrupted, and became willing accomplices in the contraband trade, which went forward with great regularity. There are records of Chinese memorials in the years , , 18 15, and , praying for 1 Tinling, p.


In , the Governor of Canton published an edict, requiring the Hong merchants, when a ship discharged her cargo at Whampoa, to give a bond that no opium was on board. In , an order was issued to search all vessels at Macao; a similar action in caused a serious interruption of trade, compelling a separation for some months of licit from illicit merchandise. In , a Chinese edict declared the seizure of one American and three English vessels for opium smug- gling at Canton, and the confiscation of half their cargoes.

By a subsequent edict the forfeiture was remitted, but they were forbidden either to sell the cargoes, to carry away tea and rhubarb, or to trade any more in the future. The edict on this occasion says : " Yet these foreigners feel no gratitude, nor wish to render a recompense ; but smuggle in opium, which poisons the empire. They should rouse themselves to zealous reflection, to bitter repentance, and to reformation, and alter their inhuman un- reasonable conduct.

As the opium traffic grew, the drain of native silver in exchange became great, and intensified the hostility of the Chinese to this illicit commerce. The trade, which is alto- gether contraband, has been largely extended of late years. Many of the ships go back in ballast, taking their sale proceeds either in bills or specie, the exportation of which requires a licence from the Chinese authorities.

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This permission is granted occasionally for dollars, but never for native silver sycee. Both are, however, constantly exported by private traders to India in spite of the prohibition; and the whole export of silver by different parties has in some years considerably overbalanced the importation of dollars.

This course became a stormy one in The British refused to surrender to the authorities some Parsees who had beaten a Dutch captain to death ; they also refused compliance with the Chinese regulations forbidding European women to come to Canton, and prohibiting the use of Sedan chairs to foreigners. Two East Indian ships left the port without proper clearances, with orders, on passing the forts, to return blank cartridge with blank cartridge, and ball with ball.

Various irritat- ing restrictions on the liberty of the merchants followed, and the Canton Committee seriously threatened war. In defiance of orders, they en- closed ground in front of the factory, and ordered up sailors and guns. The Governor-General of India decided to support the Committee, but the Directors at home intervened to stop hostilities, admitting that China had the right to regulate commercial dealings as she thought fit, and reminding their subordinates at Canton : " It is essential you should clearly understand, that you are not the representatives of the British nation, but of the East India Company. The Directors again intervened on behalf of peace and order, but their authority no longer carried much weight with some of the private traders. Innes did not confine his enterprises " Appendix I. The superintendent was asleep. A member of the household rushed at the intruder and assailed him with a wooden chopper. Innes demanded the trial of his assailant, and swore that if the man was not arrested before sunset he would set fire to the house of the superintendent.

The man was not arrested, and the English merchant accord- ingly set fire to the mandarin's house with rockets and blue-lights. On the following day the native was punished for assault by the Chinese.

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Not only was the Englishman never called to account, but his example was actually instanced by Lord Napier to prove that " success has always attended determina- tion. The Committee in charge in China began to be anxious about the future of the traffic. In , one Chinese was killed, and several wounded, by English and American smugglers.

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The Committee disclaimed responsibility, and the smugglers remained unmolested. The strain became well-nigh intolerable, and in the Governor of Canton, who was alleged to be a partici- pant in the smuggling, suggested to the Emperor the alternative of legalising the opium trade. He urged that the consumers smoked to their own injury and were unworthy of regard; that if the 1 H.

In , an affray between the opium fleet and natives led to another approach to open war. In the account forwarded to the Directors, the Committee " fear that the time has been gradually approaching, and has now arrived, when the system of non-interference has raised up a power, and encouraged a lawless and piratical mode of procedure, which it is absolutely incumbent upon us to put down. The evils continued to grow, and Great Britain did nothing to put them down. The same year further severe laws were enacted against both buyers and smokers of opium.

Never has a great trade sprung up under more extraordinary circumstances. A Government pushed to the utmost the growth of the poppy, and the manufacture and sale of the drug, for the sake of revenue. It licensed the ships that carried the drug, with their captains and crews. It provided that they should be absolutely controlled by its officers in China. It affixed its own stamp to the drug, and took pains that it should be manufactured expressly to suit the taste of the Chinese. Yet because the trade was illegal, it disclaimed and instructed its officers at the receiving port to disclaim all know- ledge of the trade.

The drug was frequently con- fiscated, and natives were executed for criminal dis- obedience to the laws of their country. The smuggling led to piracy ; boat crews were armed to the teeth ; 1 China Cor. The Government receiving its income from such a source, ostentatiously washed its hands in innocency, and forbade its officials to engage in the later stages of the trade! The attitude of the receiving nation is little less remarkable. She steadfastly abjured the trade with all its ways and consequences ; but her officials, for the most part, as steadily accepted bribes and acted as willing accomplices.

On the score of deception there is little to choose between the two, the briber certainly cannot boast himself against the bribed. Before their respective responsibilities can be appor- tioned, their relative degrees of moral enlightenment and material force behind it must first be determined and allowed for. The amazing extent of the decep- tion practised is clearly revealed in evidence given later by one of the leading opium merchants. Inglis stated that " it very much horrified the whole foreign community to find that Captain Elliot had for the first time committed his Government to a knowledge of the opium trade, because in the time of the East India Company, the East India Company's factory had most carefully avoided admitting to the Chinese that they knew anything about it, and so had H.

Government always done, up to that period. On the one hand, a determined striving on the part of the foreigners for the extension of trade, lawful or unlawful, backed guardedly by the maritime 1 China Cor. The Celestial mind clung closely to commerce, differing in this from the Japanese, but like them perpetually harassed by a dread of the rude aggressions ever following in its wake. One distinction between the two governments should be recognised. The Emperors of China appear to have been immovably hostile to the opium trade. The Reform Parliament brought the monopoly of the East India Company over the Chinese trade to an end, and gave all English traders liberty to sail the Eastern seas.

For more than a generation the Company had carried on a large trade with China, without any Chinese war having been laid to its charge. There is no doubt that it played a double game in the opium trade, and the consequences fell heavily upon its successors.

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Nevertheless it had maintained some hold, though a lessening one, over its traders. The British Government committed the grave mistake of sending out superintendents of trade, without giving them any real powers, either over the merchants, or the motley crews for whom they were nominally responsible. These superintendents were appointed to protect British traders "in the peaceful prosecution of all lawful enterprises, and to avoid all that might un- necessarily irritate the feelings or revolt the opinions of the Chinese people or Government.

The substitution of Government officials for Company traders was very distasteful to the authorities at Pekin, still more so the refusal to communicate through the Hong merchants as aforetime. Instead of allaying this suspicion, the steps now taken decidedly enhanced it. Lord Napier — who had already informed his Government that all Chinese could read — posted placards appealing to the Cantonese " against the ignorance and obstinacy of their Viceroy. A few weeks later, Lord Napier retired to Macao, where he died of fever, aggravated by his difficulties and disappointments.

The trade, licit and illicit, was resumed, and the dangers arising out of the latter grew apace. In an able memorandum drawn up by the Duke of Wellington , the Government acknowledged the failure of its Chinese policy : " It is quite obvious that the attempt made to force upon the Chinese authorities at Canton an unaccustomed mode of communication with an authority of whose powers and of whose nature they had no knowledge, which commenced its proceedings by an assumption of power hitherto unadmitted, had completely failed, The " native bandits " who dealt with the opium ships were to be suppressed ; the strange merchants that " by nature have no other object but gain," were to be persistently watched.

In forwarding these numerous edicts, Mr.

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Davis adds : " It remains now to be seen whether the native Government, having its attention at length awakened by the increased amount of smuggling transactions. Their grievance cannot be disputed ; its long continuance only emboldened the smugglers. Innes, encouraged by his previous successes in carrying on private war, publicly threat- ened reprisals on Chinese commerce for an alleged injury to some of his merchandise.

Innes would have rendered himself liable to penalties for piracy, and that " the Government would not have interfered on his behalf. Government direct us to prevent British vessels engaging in the traffic, we can enforce any order 1 China Cor.