China 1793-1828 – part 1

This edition of old newspapers is actually the result of a project that commenced with a statement of the then Chinese Premier Jiang Jemin in 1990s, before the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty. He spoke of the ‘century of shame’. I confess I had not heard the expression before. I was not sure if it referred to British shame for what we had done to China or Chinese shame for permitting it.

To address this conundrum I read some old English-language newspapers. All the following articles before 8th November 1827 come from the Bombay Courier and after that date from the Canton Register and Friend of China.

Today one would not dream of quoting a newspaper article as authority for anything, but in those days, when government was still grappling with the means to bring the media under its control, a Writ for Libel or Sedition was the very likely official response to any careless adjective or adverb. Consequently, London Editors took particular care to ensure they could fully justify every word they published. A preponderance of the articles in Bombay Courier and many of those in Canton Register originate in London newspapers that the ship captains bring to Asia.

The quality of information recited and provided by each Editor is high and opinions are generally left to the reader to adduce from quotations of the principals. As Editor Slade of the Canton Register says – ‘a newspaper is primarily a record of events’ – but the presentation of information two centuries ago was wrapped in a verbose style with frequent reliance on Latin tags, 18th century poetry and references to events in classical times that have often flummoxed me. My edition removes all that style and presents the information very much as it would be expected to be reported today.

I discovered from these newspapers that China asserted the rights of society in its culture, in the four books, understanding of which constituted the sole route to a government job. The Emperor in Peking was a union of King and Pope, acting on the advice of his councils, and receiving regular reports from the provinces via the Censorate and the provincial administrations which the Censorate observed. He was utterly remote from the people except in the matter of appeals from the provincial courts which any aggrieved party might take to Peking and present to him. If one considers the organisation of an individual province of China at that time, I believe it was similar to the state of Europe after the French Revolution when it fell under the rule of Napoleon – a vast democracy under a dictatorship – as he called it. The social contract in China, which at this time had remained unamended for millennia, was captured in a simple aphorism adopted in the Han – “The King rules with justice, the people obey; the King rules unjustly, the people rebel.”

These days in China there is a Constitution and the rights of individuals are licensed to the extent felt appropriate by the administration of the day. Two centuries ago under the Emperors that was not very far and merchants were particularly denied government assistance, it being thought that they get by well enough without extra help.

Putting the interests of society above the individual has become contrary to Western ideology, at least since Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt’s public support for and promotion of individual rights. The inherent flaw in the individual rights movement is the ungovernability of its adherents – they constantly repudiate any regulation by the administrative system and destroy it from within. But apart from the temporary nature of individual rights, I suppose there is overtly little to choose between the two approaches, the concern of both parties being to strike the balance hopefully somewhere around the middle where a majority of people are reasonably satisfied.

The Canton Register paper was published throughout most of its existence at 7 Imperial Hong in the Canton factories. The paper was initially owned by the China trader James Matheson . It was edited by the American merchant A S Keating for about a year until the job is taken-up by a Londoner named John L Slade to whom Matheson sold the paper in 1834.

Historical interest in these articles will focus on the smuggling trade that fully developed in 1820s with the great increase in opium shipments from Bombay and Calcutta to China. It facilitated the removal of Chinese silver to India and London in settlement of the adverse China-trade balance.

The difficulty for the British administration at that time was in controlling smuggling. The ministry had promoted it endlessly during the wars with France to compromise Napoleon’s Continental System. A great many people were honoured publicly for their support of the British economy by smuggling. It was not just in Europe but all over South America and Asia – wherever wealth could be obtained to support the war effort at home.

At the beginning of the 19th century, there were a couple of generations of British people who smuggled expertly and effortlessly, producing whatever documentation might be necessary for the world’s Customs Houses or obtaining and installing the modern weapons necessary on their ships to overawe the Customs & Excise Services they encountered. Some slight indication of it will be glimpsed in the South America chapter where the availability of Spanish gold and silver in payment was irresistible to our merchants.

There were two important results from this relaxed attitude towards smuggling. The British government itself was reliant on Customs and Excise revenue for its funding. When it sought to reassert itself after 1815 it found the costs of coast guard became high but the amount of smuggling into the country was far higher. The only exception was the receipt of Eastern goods which could only be legally off-loaded in London and was carried in huge Indiamen that could not find a berth elsewhere. The rise of free trade objected to that. Merchants bridled at the non-availability of outports for their cargoes. It was apparent that the ministry’s revenue was under threat and it appears to have been the case that it elected to negotiate a settlement with the merchants. Indeed it was when the merchant statesman Robert Peel assumed control of the ministry that he stopped claiming the money that had been provided by them in Customs and Excise and transferred the burden onto the people at large as a tax on their incomes. Smuggling works.

The second result arose from the ministry’s prior inability to regulate the City merchants for it was they who maintained the value of Sterling through purchase of government’s securitised debt. Thus were the City merchants enabled to share power with the Minister. It was due to the immense debts Pitt and others had accumulated on the country, far exceeding its total value in rents, tythes, trade, etc., and supposed by all politicians of the time (perhaps excluding Ricardo) to be too extensive to ever be paid-off.

The value of silver in China, prior to the influence of European trade, seems to have been at the ratio of 10:1 to gold and was apparent in the first half of the 18th century. I quote an article in Bombay Courier from a speech by the India Company Director Charles Grant in the Commons:

…… the relationship of value between silver and gold in China was 10:1 in 1730 but with the steady accumulation of silver in that country from foreign trade purchases of tea and silk for export, the rate deteriorated to 16:1 today (1810).”[1]

By 1820, the East India Company had been closed-out of the home market by British Customs duties and its only commercially important Indian-grown commodities were cotton and opium both of which found their main market in China. Opium was contraband from the time China knew it was being used recreationally more than medicinely. That was at a fairly early stage as the officials and courtiers at Peking were always interested in anything new and opium smoking was introduced there in early course. Its effects seem to have complimented the naturally social nature of the Chinese psyche. It was sold in Kwongtung furtively for silver and as sales increased the flow of silver out of China became a torrent. As pure silver rather than silver coin was the currency of China, this quickly brought-on a financial crisis which the British expected to be addressed by increasing silver production from the Yunnan mines. The Emperor however, in consideration of his duty to his ancestors and his progeny, could not so simply expend the wealth of his country in the British way and declined to do so.

This financial crisis within China manifested in predictable ways. The exchange rate of copper cash, the money of the people and the market place, to silver sycee was about 1,000:1 in 1820. By the 1830s it had fallen to 1,200:1 or 1,500:1 depending on where you checked. Government revenue, particularly the salt tax, was paid in copper but had to be remitted in silver; costs of necessaries in the market place all increased in terms of copper. Hardship was spreading through the populace starting with the poor. On the other hand, the Chinese army was largely beyond the control of the Magistrates and opium smoking amongst the soldiery became widespread. It quickly became apparent that soldiers were unable to contend with the occasional riots because they had been debauched.

This led directly to the appointment of Commissioner Lin and the move into war. Earl Grey’s diary of his interviews with the smugglers in 1832 clearly indicates he expected a confrontation to develop and he seems to have concluded that the seizure of an offshore island would be the right result whereby the foreigners might administer themselves under their own familiar laws whilst those Chinese, whom we had usually employed to deliver our goods over the last mile, could visit and take off our products for smuggling into the China market in the same way they had always done. See the Earl Grey chapter for details from his diary.

To better articulate the different approaches to trade which are derived from the different approaches to social organisation, I have appended here a few paragraphs from Urquhart’s Turkey, a travel book long out of print, that is excerpted in these old newspapers and describes the commercial system in that country at the time of the arrival of British principles. The Turkish system seems to have been unexceptional and was duplicated all over Asia:

“The Turkish economy is simple and creates prosperity but more importantly commerce in Turkey is readily intelligible. There are no fluctuations to fear, no fictitious credit is created. Neither consumer nor producer is dependent on powerful capitalists operating in between them. There is no effecting of transfers, running risks, circumventing gratuitous obstacles (all of which increase prices and accumulate wealth in the hands of the intermediaries). Freedom of exchange of goods prevents great gains and great losses. No-one is excluded. Competition diminishes difficulties, expenses and profits. Prices relate to the labour expended, the transport cost and the commercial exchange.

“Notwithstanding bandits, Eastern commerce extends from North Africa to the Pacific, without banks, insurance, post offices, canals and roads, and unprotected by law, or courts, or Consuls.

“When a caravan arrives and the camels are unladen, there are bales from everywhere with markings in exotic languages. It is an eloquent contradiction of our preconceived notions of despotism and insecurity in the East. Our goods are avidly sought – Birmingham over Indian muslins, Glasgow over Golconda chintzes, Sheffield over Damascus steel, English broadcloth over Cashmere shawls. Seeing their vibrant commercial spirit makes me regret the gulf that has so long divided east from west.”[2]

I have copied a great many articles about the production and marketing of opium to a dedicated chapter for ease of examination and only those that, for one reason or another, could not be severed from the chronological text remain at the end of the China chapter, from about January 1839 onwards. Even so, the articles in this chapter, from say 1830 onwards, will be lucidly clear if read together with the articles in the Opium chapter. Likewise a good many reports concerning the supply of cotton, the other staple of India / China-trade, are in the Asia chapter. The other side of trade, the Chinese exports of tea, silk, sugar and purges on a day-to-day basis are in this chapter. For better details of the Company’s sales by auction of Chinese goods in London, the reader may also need to refer to the Economy chapter.

It is apparent on a balance of probability from the findings of the 1840 parliamentary Select Committee that Capt Elliot chose to bring-on the war with China by obtaining the surrender of £2 millions of merchants’ opium with the responsibility of the UK Government to indemnify them. Applying the cui bono principle, it is very likely that the merchants pressed him to do so – there was no buyer except Queen Victoria – but the evidence on that rests again on inference and probability and documentary evidence of communications between the traders and Elliot have been lost. No doubt Elliot considered that all other means of amending the terms of trade in China had proved unproductive of the required result which was to have China trade on British terms i.e. little or no duties on imports / exports with the Chinese government emulating the British in transferring its main revenue from Customs & Excise to some non-commercial source to permit the maximisation of profit. It seems Capt Elliot was one of the first Englishmen to recognise that the British government would need prodding into war with China. The China traders had in fact prepared the ground quite thoughtfully, using the political power of various Chambers of Commerce in Britain to make their case. Those British merchants whom the China traders approached, aware of the huge population of China, became completely besotted with the prospect of that market which, they were told, would be available to them once obstructive Chinese officials had been obliged to amend terms of trade.

On 19th March 1840, Lord John Russell announced to the Commons the objects of a military expedition – to obtain apology and compensation from China, and security for future trade. The proximate cause of the ministry’s initiative was the lobbying of ministers by the dispossessed opium owners for compensation, operating through high powered trade associations and Chambers of Commerce. Amusingly, this involved pulling the strings of more or less the entire commercial establishment of Britain. Scottish and Midland Chambers and manufacturers were persuaded war would open the China market to them. They spoke of ‘putting an inch on the shirt tails of China.’

The subsequent history of opium makes it difficult for the reader today to take an unbiased position. It will be recalled that opium use was generally legal then. The only European restraint I am aware of was the registration of users in the Swiss Cantons. In Asia of course a good many countries prohibited it. The India Company forbade its use in its own territorial area but that was a commercial consideration to protect the monopoly. Thailand and other states peripheral to China prohibited it as did several Pacific islands. But in England, Lincolnshire farmers went sprout-picking on cold November mornings fortified with an opium pill. William Wilberforce preferred a glass of laudanum to wine as the latter was too heating and a good many others, rich and poor, took the same view. Sir Samuel Whitbread, the well-known brewer, was disturbed by his competitors exploiting a niche market in opiate-flavoured beers. Every doctor prescribed opium to patients. Mothers gave it to their infants as a soother. It was part of the everyday scene.

Lord John Russell’s announcement of war induced Sir James Graham a couple of weeks later to move a factional resolution attributing the dispute with China to the neglect of government to appropriately empower Napier and subsequent representatives to regulate the opium trade. From the observations of the 2nd Earl Grey in his Diary there seems to be no doubt that the British ministry knew in 1832 what was happening, and what could predictably be expected to happen, in China but it did not act. Graham’s public allegation stung Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister, and Palmerston instantly published the first China Blue Book. On the information contained in this publication, the merits of the war were finally made available to MPs in the House.

The way the vote for war was rigged by a couple of City merchants is interesting but, once war had commenced, both parties supported it, and the Tory administration that replaced Lord Melbourne’s made the war its own. The commercial attractions of dictating a treaty to a country as wealthy and populous as China were very real. After considering and discarding all the rationales that were adduced in support of war, one has stood the test of time – the right of a strong country to insist, by all available means, that another permit trade on the terms of the strong country. It is true that every country likes to trade but, in the present system, one may no longer choose one’s trading partners. For the continuing evidence of this in today’s world, I note that every Western commercial treaty has an MFN clause – if you, ABC country, give special terms of trade to anyone, you must trade with us too on the same terms.

This first opium war and the next one 10+ years later together allowed an increasing level of western interference in Chinese domestic policy and administration. It is consequently called ‘the opening of China’ in the West and ‘the century of shame’ in China.

I should mention for good order that some editions of the Canton Register newspaper, of which this chapter is mainly comprised, are missing from the British Library copy.

Saturday 12th January 1793

Macartney accepted his appointment as Ambassador to Peking on conditions. Pitt was required to forego ministerial patronage and only appropriately qualified people will comprise the embassy. Macartney has himself discarded all interests of private friendship.

George Staunton has obtained two Chinese priests to serve as interpreters. They were taken from China to France by the Catholics and from there transferred to Ripa’s school in Italy where Staunton got them by permission of the Pope. They will stay in his house in Harley Street until departure.

Vol 11 No 2 – 9th January 1838

There were six main items in Macartney’s instructions:

  • An unfortified island near Chusan for storing unsold goods and residence of foreigners.
  • Ditto near Canton.
  • Open trade at Chusan, Ningpo and Tien Tsin.
  • A sales warehouse at Peking, like the Russians.
  • Abolition or reduction of transit duties between Macau and Canton and
  • An end to the Canton squeezes.

19th/20th January 1793

The Travancore has arrived from China. Brown has become chief supercargo (Taipan) of the Select Committee in place of Harrison who has returned to England. Parkins has succeeded Irwin. Cumming is on tour of Malacca and Bengal and will come here soon. Irvine and Jackson, two Company officials, have arrived in China on the Thetis with Crethorne, a free trader.

Saturday 2nd February 1793

The Governor-General has been instructed by the Directors to commence a House of Trade at Canton for commission-earning business. This will permit the Indian Agency Houses and others to trade legally in China under the Company’s control.

The House of Trade will enjoy the prices that the Company is able to obtain. Its customers will be served first for remittance to India and London by Company Bills.

The House will be managed by the writers James Drummond and George Sparks. The commission payable by customers is 3% on goods and 2% on bullion and remittances. (see next week for more info)

Saturday 2nd February 1793

The Company’s Directors have funded the fabrication of a solid gold casket to contain King George’s letter to the Emperor of China. It is 14” square with the Royal Arms enamelled in a frame of diamonds. All four sides are embossed. The letter is on vellum contained in a white silk bag and is partly in the King’s hand. The gold content, excluding the jewels and workmanship, is valued at 1,000 guineas.

Amongst the technological productions carried by the embassy are three chariots. One is for Macartney’s use. The other two are for the Emperor, one for summer and the other for winter.

Macartney’s carriage has gold chain-work over the body, panel glasses, and a silver fringe to the canopy. An open work gilt cornice surrounds the top. It looks like a state carriage. The harness is of black leather faced with scarlet and fitted with silver buckles.

The summer carriage for the Emperor has panel glasses and large windows in the back. The ground in the centre is green with a large network of gold aventurine, in the interstices of which are painted roses. The door panels have large paintings featuring Cybele in her car with attendants. The carriage is entirely gilt but slightly picked out in brown. The hammer cloth is light blue silk with wreaths and bouquets of jasmine and roses. The corners are tied up with large fan bows from which fall silk cords and tassels.

The winter carriage has a similar body in green and gold with aventurine network and roses in the interstices of the lower panel, but the back and upper panels are without glass and there, instead of flowers, are shells in green, gold and brown. A novelty in design is the springs and standards of each carriage which are made of a single piece of iron. The linings of each are in imperial yellow as is the harness etc. The three carriages are said to have cost £5,000.

Lord Macartney also takes the largest orrory ever made and an immense quantity of the richest plate.[3]

The Directors have chartered the Bellona to bring home teas.

Saturday 2nd February 1793

Between August – October 1792, fourteen Company ships arrived at Canton (names and commanders listed)

Foreign shipping trading at Canton during 1792:

American 6, Dutch 4, Spanish 3, French 3, Swedish 1, Danish 1 = 18.

Country shipping at Canton[4] = 22 vessels of which 20 carried large shipments of cotton. Four country ships brought opium (King George 220 chests, Surat Castle 30, Nancy 40 and General Elliot 170). The Popham also brought 25 chests = 485 chests.

Some tin was also shipped to China by the country trade.

Saturday 9th February 1793

Concurrent with the establishment of the Company’s new House of Trade at Canton, the Directors have proscribed their employees in China from receiving private commissions to transact agency business .

The Company undertakes that the correspondence and instructions of private merchants to the Canton House of Trade shall be confidential and will not be disclosed to the Directors in London or their Select Committee in China.

Vol 11 No 8 – 20th February 1838

Excerpts from The Pacification of the Seas by Yuen Yung Sun of Heung Shan (Heung Shan is the former name of Chung Shan, the island on which Macau is sited at the southern extremity. It was called Heung Shan because it contained a large osmanthus forest):

Piracy around Canton became a problem in the Ka Hing (Mandarin – Kia King) Emperor’s reign. It was caused by the three Yuen brothers of Cochin China – Kwong Ping, Kwong Yee and Kwong Kwok.

In 1791 the Kien Lung (Mandarin – Chien Lung) Emperor had subdued Cochin China and the King of that country removed to Kwangsi where he was conciliated with a blue button. In 1801 his younger brother Fuk Hing raised troops in Thailand and marched them to Cochin China where he fought and killed Yuen Kwong Ping and assumed the throne. Kwong Ping’s son King Sing fled with his group.

One of his group knew the pirates Chin Tseih and Pih Tung Hae and introduced King Sing to them. King Sing conferred an honour on Chin Tseih who had 200 boats and many brave and experienced fighters and was thus able to induce Chin Tseih to help in recovering the sovereignty of Cochin China. Chin took his force to the coast and fought a battle with Fuk Hing’s army. He won but was unable to penetrate inland or consolidate his victory. He controlled the coast and a few ports while the rest of the country remained beyond his government. Chin failed to establish laws for the areas he controlled which rapidly sank into anarchy. His men stole women and valuables and caused popular resentment.

The natives ultimately agreed to assist Fuk Hing in a two-pronged attack on Chin by sea and land. Fuk Hing launched his double attack and the natives in the lands that Chin occupied concurrently rebelled. Chin was defeated and he and most of his men were killed. Chin’s cousin Chin Yee escaped with a few men and abandoned themselves to piracy.

Fuk Hing’s naval commander, Wang Pao, was clearly a match for the pirates but after his death they were unopposed. The pirates then organised themselves in red, yellow, green, blue, black and white squadrons and grew rapidly in numbers and wealth. New recruits brought information on the trading patterns of the Chinese coastal provinces. These pirates united with another group under Chung Pao and several other groups were also inducted into the gang. Chung Pao achieved legitimacy by connecting with Chin Tseih’s widow and this gave his red-flag squadron precedence in the fleets. The pirates sold protection to the coasting trade and the coastal villages – they issued certificates to those who paid and plundered those who did not. To prevent duplicate licensing they divided the Two Kwongs (the two southern provinces of China – Kwong Si and Kwong Tung) into districts. They remained powerful for ten years at the beginning of this 19th century.

The pirates established three rules for the regulation of their society:

1/ Anyone going ashore for private plunder would be executed.

2/ all loot was to be returned to a central place before distribution; the plunderer received 20% and the balance went into the communal fund.

3/ when the group took women and girls they were not to be defiled on pain of death. Fornication with prisoners was allowed only by consent. The hostages’ details were recorded for subsequent ransom.

The pirates also agreed to routinely pay high prices for food and wine to reward the supplying villagers for their risk and to ensure a continuous supply.

The pirates were superstitious and particularly favoured the Sun Po Sam temple on the coast of Wai Chow in east Guangdong. When the fleet passed-by they always stopped to sacrifice there.

In 1808 Admiral Leung Lam Kwok in command of the government fleet based at the Tiger’s Mouth (at Chuen Pi – this is the fleet of the Two Kwong) was sent to suppress the pirates. He sent 25 ships against the pirate fleet. After a bloody hand-to-hand battle he was defeated. Fifteen of his ships were captured and the rest escaped. He himself was captured and killed. Chung Pao, the pirate chief, was angered – “we had already defeated the Admiral, of what use is his death? Now the government will pursue us for ever and we will have little opportunity of abandoning piracy and returning to fishing should we have wished to do so.” He killed the pirate who had killed the Admiral. During the battle, the owners of some ten large junks requested the Heung Shan heen, Pang Suen,[5] to be allowed to reinforce the Admiral but the heen had an agreement with the pirates and disallowed their involvement.

Eventually the pirate chief of the eastern fleet, Ah Po Tsai, argued with Chung Pau of the central fleet who made an accommodation with the Canton Viceroy whereby he and his men were amnestied. Then Ah Po Tsai made the same arrangement. They were given jobs in the Chinese navy. The Viceroy of the Two Kwong then felt able to tackle the western fleet with the aid of the surrendered pirates. He first instructed the King of Annam, whence the pirates would withdraw if faced by superior force, to prepare a force to confront them. He then defeated the pirates in three battles. 3,460 pirates surrendered. Another 500 were captured in battle. 86 ships 291 cannon and 1,291 handguns were handed over. About 130 pirates who had not surrendered but been captured were executed. This all occurred in the first ten years of the Ka Hing Emperor’s reign.[6]

Vol 11 No 14 – 3rd April 1838

The Pacification of the Seas continued (there appears to be a missing article):

In September of the 13th year of the To Kwong Emperor (1833), Colonel Lin Fa led a squadron against the pirates. He found them too numerous and retreated. The pirates pursued him to Ah Nung Hoy and sank six Imperial junks. A junk Pang Fa was then returning from Cochin China and Tongking. The pirate chief Chung Pau knew she was too big to easily board and capture. He seized two ferry boats, filled them with pirates, then ‘chased’ them towards the Pang Fa which ‘rescued’ them. The Pang Fa was thus captured by deception and became Chang Pau’s flag ship.

The following year Admiral Mo Sum Cheung assembled 100 government war junks, divided this fleet into four squadrons and cruised the Ladrone Islands. The pirate fleet was by now huge and confronted the government force. The Admiral had taught his men to throw hand-grenades, a new tactic, which unsettled the pirates. He closed with the pirates and sprayed lime water on their boats, burning the faces and eyes of the pirates. 200 pirates were killed and many more captured.

At that time the red flag (Western) pirate fleet was off Hai Nan Island and Admiral Mo wished to attack it before it could make defensive preparations but he was too late and lost 14 junks in a protracted and fierce fight. Thereafter the pirates attacked many coastal villages, plundering their wealth and seizing their women and girls. They surprised one of Admiral Mo’s squadrons whilst it was sheltering during rain with sails down and sank all 25 government war junks.

Peking responded by promoting Pih Ling to the Viceroyalty of the Two Kwong. He had previously been Governor of Kwangtung. The Cantonese called him Pik Tsing Tien – Pih who is ‘just and pure as heaven’[7] – and were reassured. Villagers crowded the doorway of his yamen to make their complaints against the pirates. Pih invited the public to make proposals for ending the piracy threat. One said ‘since the death of Wang Pao, the government forces have consistently been beaten and the soldiers have become more disheartened as the pirates have become more confident. We should cut off their supplies and stop their communications by denying all maritime shipping activity to our people. By embargoing all voyages, by transporting the salt cargoes on inland waterways, we can deny the pirates any advantage in their business and persuade them to return to fishing.

Viceroy Pih adopted this plan, the people co-operated and the pirates had so much difficulty getting adequate provisions that they had no option but to enter the river delta waterways. One fleet plundered Sun Wui while another under Chung Pao attacked Poon Yu and Shun Tak.

I (the author, Yuen Yung Sun) lived at Shun Tak and know what happened. One hundred sail came up the river burning villages and Customs Houses. They split into four and pirate dragon boats were rowed all round the heens. The big pirate ships stopped at Ke King Sze and sent letters demanding $10,000. Some villagers were for compliance. They said our villages are near the water, the pirates are strong and fierce. We should pay first and later devise schemes for our protection. Others were against paying. They said these pirates are insatiable. If we pay once we have to continue paying whatever they ask. When we fail to pay they will attack and we will be too impoverished to resist. Instead of giving money to pirates we should give it to our young men to encourage them to resist. Such a large amount will ensure their valiance and a single victory will give the pirates pause. The discussion continued all day until a villager loudly said we can easily beat the pirates and we should not pay them. Finally it was agreed to oppose the pirates.

A fir tree fence was built around the village and people were paid to watch and protect. Nothing happened for several days and in the uncertainty the villagers patrolled to the sea to look for the pirates. They found the fleet anchored nearby and the pirates were already aware of their decision to resist and shelled them and their village but the fence held. The pirates sent a squad to break down the fence but were repelled. The pirate chief Ko Po Tai (or Tsai) then split his forces and sent half to secure the hills behind the village. The villagers panicked and the pirates attacked, beheading eight villagers and hanging their heads from the trees. They also captured many womenfolk. On the third day all the villagers fled and the pirates took over the village, taking away the household goods, clothes, food and animals.

They then entered the Pearl River and attacked the tribute ship from Thailand that was anchored there but unsuccessfully. A few days after they attacked a riverain village and killed over a thousand people.

The pirates used several deceptions to effect their ends – sometimes they disguised themselves as officials and their boats as government cruisers – and when a village failed to prepare itself against them, they attacked. They also disguised themselves as traders and fortune tellers when they came ashore to get information but these tricks were soon recognised and any stranger was immediately suspected and murdered. Even a troop of real government soldiers, sent to get rice, was attacked and destroyed on one occasion. A state of anarchy prevailed along the coast and waterways of Canton.

The Ta Chow villages prepared an ambush by hiding a cannon in trees beside the path to their beach. When the pirates returned in great numbers, they opened fire and killed many. Then they pursued and beheaded the others. They killed most and captured one junk and two dragon boats.

At about that time the female pirate Ching Yick (or Nga) Sau, in command of 500 ships, had devastated Tung Kwoon, Shun Tak, Sun Wui and Heung Shan. She ordered Chung Pau to take 300 ships and attack the area of Ta Chow. They devastated the suburbs but could not penetrate our palisade. A few other villages also avoided being plundered. Many were now opposing the pirates but they had guns on their ships and could fire on the landing place thus driving us back. After they landed we again tried to ambush them but they lay on the ground and our guns could not be depressed sufficiently to hit them. All our gun crews were caught and beheaded. Then 500 pirates approached our village which 3,000 villagers were defending. We saw their messenger going back to the beach for reinforcements and shot him with a fowling piece. The pirates then formed a long single line. Our Kau Ho ran out and taunted them and a European pirate emerged with a musket. The two met between the opposing forces. Kau stabbed the foreigner in the chest. The foreigner cut off Kau’s right arm with his sword and then fatally stabbed him. Everyone was enraged and a general battle ensued. The villagers were driven back until reinforcements from Chih Hwa village arrived and drove off the pirates. The pirates attacked everywhere and government forces invariably withdrew on their approach. Incrementally the pirate force was increased by defections from amongst the defeated villagers. Other villagers abandoned the fight. Ho Shau Yuen tried to rally us and encourage a few men to advance on the pirates but few cannot overwhelm many and he died. The pirates then burned 400 houses and killed ten villagers. I went up into the hills and saw the vast pirate fleet covering the waters. I was overcome with grief. Since peace has been restored we built a temple to Ho Shau Yuen and even the Governor has been there to worship. It is one of our most popular temples.

Saturday 2nd March 1793

The gentlemen operating the Company’s new House of Agency at Canton have been burdened with a supply of 400 bales of Indian cotton for which there is no immediate prospect of sale. Opium is selling at about $400 per chest.

Saturday 9th March 1793

Richardson v the late New Bombay Insurance Co – an action to recover 60,000 rupees under a policy issued 1789 on the ship Dadaloy of which the Plaintiff was sole owner and supercargo. The ship was lost off San Chuen Island in a typhoon.[8]

The Defendants said the ship was unseaworthy; it had sprung a leak whilst loading at Bombay requiring much of the cargo to be discharged and reloaded; there was a deviation from the disclosed voyage (to Whampoa), and some other minor points.

The defendants had no evidence supporting the points of their defence beyond the mere assertion of them.

Judgment for the Plaintiff with double costs.

Saturday 20th April 1793

£400,000 has been paid into the Company’s treasury at Canton for Bills on London. The Company’s China business is prosperous.

Saturday 11th May 1793

Calcutta – the Brig Grace (Coolidge) has arrived from Macau.

Saturday 8th June 1793

The Concordia (Nimmo) arrived yesterday morning at Bombay. She met the Lion (64) in Sunda Straits and Capt Nimmo went on board. The India ship Hindustan and the tender Jackal were with the Lion.

Macartney and his party are all in good health, although Macartney had an attack of gout earlier. The Jackel had parted company earlier and the emissary had bought a French brig at Batavia not expecting to see the smaller ship again.

When Nimmo was at Bantam later on 21st March he saw the Lion sailing passed.

Saturday 29th June 1793

The British embassy to China – The Lion has arrived at Batavia with the Hindustan. It has called at Madeira, Tenerife, St Jago, Rio de Janeiro, Tristan da Cunha and New Amsterdam, which last two islands are presently uninhabited. It arrived Java on 28th February and stopped in the Sunda Straits for wood and water. It is intended to sail to the Banka Straits and thence to Macau.

Macartney has received a letter from the Select Committee at Canton saying the Emperor is favourably disposed to the Embassy and Chinese ships await its arrival at both Macau and the Yellow River.

Saturday 18th January 1794

The Company’s fleet has arrived from China. In view of the war risks to shipping they put into Madras on 22nd December 1793 seeking for a frigate to convoy them. They all took somewhat different routes from the customary one for safety.

The King George was totally destroyed by lightning and subsequent fire at Macau two days after her arrival there. She had much sandalwood in her cargo which has consequently risen in price. The crew was saved.

The China market is reported to have been generally poor this year. Cotton was obtaining 9 Taels a bale and other goods in proportion.[9] The Company’s Treasury was closed throughout the season and there is nowhere to deposit cash.

Saturday 15th February 1794

China news – a French ship from the N W coast of America, flying Portuguese colours, entered Taipa roads while the Lion (Macartney’s ship) was there, and requested Portuguese protection which was granted.

The ship then entered the inner harbour and was immediately boarded by a party of Portuguese soldiers who took possession.

The French captain sent up a chop to the Hoppo at Canton announcing his arrival, requesting to go to Whampoa and offering to pay any fees. He reported the unfriendly action of the Portuguese governor.

The Hoppo approved the request to come up to Whampoa and it is expected the Portuguese will be obliged to release the ship.

Saturday 1st March 1794

A fleet of five English Indiamen under Commodore Thompson has arrived at Manila via the Sunda Straits and sailed from thence to China on 5th December 1793. The Spanish Governor of Manila was hospitable and polite. He has only recently heard of the war between Spain and France from a ship dispatched to him specifically with that advice.

A ship of the Philippine Company, loaded with piecegoods and indigo, sailed with the Indiamen to China and will continue with them under convoy to Europe.

The Spanish Governor has been attentive to the needs of commerce and is popular with the merchants. He has opened Manila to the ships of all nations for an unlimited time. The port duties on most imports and exports are abolished.

Saturday 22nd March 1794

The Daphne has arrived at Malacca from China and reports five Indiamen have reached Canton via Manila. The Royal Charlotte and the rest of the Madras fleet has also arrived safely but with storm damage. At that time Macartney was within a few days of arrival at Canton. HMS Lion was at the Bocca Tigris and would convoy the Indiamen back to England.

A complete schedule of Company ships’ voyages for 1793 / 94 season is shown in this article (not reproduced here)

Saturday 22nd March 1794

Captain Scott of the Carnatic reports that Macartney has arrived at Canton. It is said he interviewed the Emperor at his summer palace 150 miles from Peking. The country on the way was said to be uncommonly beautiful and fertile and sustains a huge population. Macartney gave his presents and received back numerous presents of immense value. All the members of the embassy received presents from the Emperor, even the officers and men of the Lion and Hindustan, which crews total 600 men. Each received a gift valued at some 30 guineas. His Lordship had repeated interviews with the high officials.

The national object of the embassy was regrettably not achieved but the Emperor did avow an intention of encouraging trade and agreed to remedy some grievances at Canton for which latter purpose a high official was sent to the Two Kwong as a replacement Viceroy to liaise with the Company’s Select Committee and remove the encumbrances that have been loaded on the trade.

Our request to send an ambassador was positively declined as was our second request to form a permanent settlement in China. Even our petition to improve our conditions of residence at Canton was rejected. At the time of Scott’s visit, Macartney was proposing to board the Lion and return directly to England.

Saturday 29th March 1794

Extract from a private letter from Canton of 14th October 1793:

The great advantages we expected to derive from Macartney’s embassy have been diminished by the arrival of Capt MacIntosh of the Hindustan with some of the embassy. The wary Chinese were not appeased by skilful diplomacy. There is no-one who could have done better but, despite his adroitness, Macartney could carry neither of his two main points. He abandoned any expectation of settling an Englishman in Peking by the second or third interview. Had he succeeded it was to be Sir George Staunton on £12,000 per annum (Macartney got £30,000 from the India Company for performing the embassy). His application for the temporary grant of an exclusive English trading settlement in China received a peremptory refusal.

It is a fundamental principle of Chinese politics that all innovation be eschewed. The ideas of reform and regeneration are only fashionable in Europe. Chinese culture, which is enshrined in Chinese law, is immutable.

Whilst we had no success in our main points, we hope to get sufficient commercial advantages for the Company to defray the trouble and expense of the embassy. A Viceroy Extraordinary is accompanying Macartney to Canton. His instructions and his character suggest he will attack the corruption that diminishes our profits of trade. Macartney and the new Viceroy will arrive about 20th October. The provincial officials and principal Hong merchants set out on 11th to meet the men. Tomorrow Browne, the Chief supercargo, and his suite will meet Macartney and we are all preparing for the reception. We expect Macartney to stay only 15 – 20 days.

The embassy was taken to Jehol, one of the Emperor’s residences in Tartary about 40-50 leagues from Peking (Jehol translates as ‘hot springs’). They were accommodated sumptuously in Imperial palaces along the way. At Jehol they were accommodated in a palace of such prodigious size that the entire retinue of 100+ Europeans plus 200+ Chinese officials were housed within one wing of the building. The Emperor’s own palace was nearby. I cannot say it is beautiful or splendid from the available descriptions but it was certainly immense. The wall around Jehol measures over 6 English miles.

Prior to the audience, several days were spent explaining the protocol. The kowtow was initially held to be indispensable. Macartney resolutely resisted this ceremony but privately determined to acquiesce rather than lose the chance of a meeting.[10] Fortunately the Emperor himself dispensed with the ceremony and the meeting followed a form hardly different from that used in the capitals of Europe. Macartney and retinue were received in a spacious hall. The Emperor sat at one end on a throne. Macartney was placed on his left hand, which place the Chinese devote to the guest of honour. The high Chinese officials sat to the left of Macartney and beyond them was Sir George and his son. In the second row were the rest of Macartney’s suite except a few who were placed in front of the throne opposite the Emperor. On the Emperor’s right were many other officials. The entire assembly was permitted to sit. Macartney presented the box containing H M’s letter which was read and explained by the interpreter. The Emperor asked Macartney a few questions and the audience broke up.

Macartney had altogether six interviews with the Emperor. The presents returned to the Embassy by the Emperor are immense in quantity and value. They are all on the Hindustan. Two of them attracted my attention. One is a poem composed and written by the Emperor himself. It is contained in a blackwood box which the officials said had been a possession of the ruling house of China for two millennia. The other is a mass of agate of extraordinary size and beauty. We learned that it had been the practise of the Emperor to hold this agate in his hand and reflect upon it whenever he spoke with his officials, since in China it is the Emperor who does not look at his subjects (the reverse of George III’s court) to avoid giving them airs of importance.

Saturday 12th April 1794

China news – The General Meadows (Lloyd) has arrived Calcutta from Canton via the Malacca Straits. Lloyd saw no enemy ship. The rest of the Company’s fleet was nearly ready to depart Whampoa when he left. They were to be convoyed by HMS Lion on about 10th March.

James Crichton of the Bombay Castle is appointed doctor to the Company’s factory in China vice Alexander Duncan, gone home.

Dr James Dinwiddie, of Macartney’s embassy, has lectured the English community at Canton on natural and experimental philosophy. He offers to visit Calcutta and repeat his experiments there before returning home.[11]

Saturday 26th April 1794

China news – we hear, shortly before the sailing of the General Meadows from Whampoa, that an order was received from Peking requiring Macartney’s embassy to depart China within ten days of receipt of the mandate.

Conforming to the mandate, Macartney left China and went to Macau where he planned to remain until the Indiamen were ready to depart. The Cantonese provincial government has interpreted the Imperial order literally – a young writer who was sent out on the Hindustan to join the China factory, is denied permission for a passport to remain in China because the Hindustan carried part of the embassy.

Saturday 12th July 1794

The last fleet of the Company’s indiamen to China will sail from Bombay on 27th July. It is comprised of Friendship (George Smith), Shah Muncher (John Anson Smith), Shaw Ardaseer (Nimmo), Phoenix (Edward L Hay), Gangavar (Trasker), City of Goa (Collis) and Shaw Huriswami, later corrected to Hormuzier (Meek).

Saturday 9th August 1794

News from China:

  • The Royal Charlotte (Douglas) has arrived from China and Batavia. She left Canton on 16th April 1794. She was convoyed by Commander Mitchell’s squadron to Pulo Baba then joined two Dutch warships Amazon and Swan as far as Anjier Point.
  • Cotton was selling at Canton for 9 Taels 8 mace per bale, sandalwood 20 Taels, opium 350 – 550 Taels per chest, depending on quality.
  • Douglas reports the arrival of Venus (Elmore) at Macau on 21st April with an opium cargo.
  • Douglas had no news of Macartney but got a note from Staunton indicating the new Viceroy Sung had agreed to improve pilotage by basing the pilots on Lintin rather than Macau.

Saturday 9th August 1794

Petition to Sir G Staunton from two country ships’ captains at Lintin, 16th March:

We country merchants believe Macartney’s embassy important. From the record of his Governorship of Madras, we can confidently expect the highest quality of service. With the assistance of Sir George Staunton, it is the best England can do.

Our ships are detained at this island two weeks for want of pilots to Whampoa. Formerly we reported the name of the ship and the captain and got a pilot in 24 hours. The Company’s ships get instant service. Why not ours?

Also privateers prevent our sailing direct to India. We have to take a circuitous route around the Pacific. We are detained here waiting for a pilot and we have longer voyages. These are hazards to our trade and impoverish us.

Sgd Capts W Douglas and G G Richardson.

Reply of Staunton, off Sam Kok, 16th March:

Macartney remonstrated with the new Viceroy over inadequate numbers of pilots and received an assurance that an increased number would be stationed on Lintin which is more convenient than Macau.

He is now departing and has no time to remind the Viceroy but assumes the matter is in hand. The Company’s homeward fleet is now discharging its pilots and you should have but little more time to wait.

Saturday 8th November 1794

Capt George Smith of the Friendship has written from Malacca dated 30th August. His ship and the Company’s China fleet of Shaw Ardaseer, Shaw Muncher, Shaw Hormazeer, Phoenix, Gungaver and the Bombay frigate have arrived safely en route to China. The City of Goa is unseen. Two French privateers are thought to be in the Straits.

Saturday 13th December 1794

The Company’s war-sloop Swift arrived from Penang on 11th December. She met the Duke of Clarence (Hayes) from Canton and learned all the fleet has arrived safely in China together with an English transport from Botany Bay.

  • There were five Americans, four Dutch, one Danish and a Spanish vessel in port.
  • A small American ship (Rogers) has arrived Macau from Oregon with a cargo of sea otter pelts and the schooner Spy has arrived from Manila.
  • The first India ship got 10 Taels 7 mace for her cotton but since then the Chinese are paying average 9 Taels 2 mace and some masters are disinclined to break bulk. Opium is unsellable and 2,000 chests are in storage. Tin is selling at its prime cost of 14 Taels, sandalwood 18 Taels, pepper 15-16 Taels and sharks fins 22 Taels.
  • The low offers for our imports are reflected in cheap exports. The teas have not arrived from the tea districts and the price remains unfixed but soft sugar is 4 Taels 2 mace and Company-quality nankeens are $80 per 100 pieces.
  • The Company’s treasury was not open when Duke of Clarence left but it is expected to open once all the ships arrive. The Select has indicated, subject to any instructions for them on the ships, to continue sale of Bills at the same rate as last season.
  • A Dutch ambassador has arrived at Canton from Batavia with a small military escort and presents for the Emperor. He awaits a passport to go to Peking.

Saturday 13th December 1794

Letter from Canton, 13th October 1794 – The rain this summer since April has been uniquely heavy. The countryside around Canton is flooded. A cotton manufacturing town 80 miles west of Canton is particularly affected and alone accounts for the lack of demand and low prices – the factories are hardly able to process anything. If the Canton cotton manufactories were operating normally, cotton would be selling at 12½ – 13 Taels per picul.

Letter from Canton, 15th October 1794 – cotton has continued to fall and 8 Taels is now unavailable. The Hongs say it is due to the flooding which has drowned 18,000 – 20,000 people involved in cotton manufacture. We think they are also using the opportunity of heavy rain to limit the demands of the current Hoppo, who is hungrier than any in living memory, and this provoked them into pushing down prices (i.e. this Hoppo’s percentage is based on value and the Hongs have used their monopoly and the flood to procure a reduced value of trade. By paying less for imports they necessarily receive less for exports, and all bribes are reduced pro-rata.)

The Dutch ambassador was politely received at Peking, patiently heard, gave his presents and received some in return and is now coming back.

Saturday 27th December 1794

Editorial – the late failure of our cotton trade is disastrous. This staple employs nearly all Bombay capital. Many of the ships that carry cotton are unsuitable for other cargoes. The reluctance of the Hongs at Canton to buy is resented but the abundance of the coming crop encourages us to hope.

Saturday 10th January 1795

Letters from Madras say the Gungaver has arrived from China with news of the failure of Shy Kinqua, a Hong merchant and frequent recipient of Madrassi loans. He ceased payment in November owing 2,200,000 Taels. The Company and numerous Madras investors will be affected by his failure.

Saturday 7th February 1795

The Upton Castle has arrived from China. Prices at Canton continue low.

Saturday 14th February 1795

The Lowjee Family (McIntosh) arrived Bombay from China last Monday 9th February. When she left Canton the price of our cotton had risen. The low prices earlier are now attributed to Shy Kinqua who was selling-off his stock at a loss to delay discovery of his bankruptcy. Now his Hong is closed, the market has returned to normal.

At that time the only country ship still in the river was the General Meadows from Calcutta. The Company’s ships at Canton then were Alfred, Canton, Ocean, Taunton Castle, King George, Middlesex, Ganges, Nottingham, Sulivan and Ponsborne. There was also a Botany Bay convict ship in port called Indispensable which was to sail with the Indiamen.

The Company had not opened its treasury in China at the time of the Lowjee Family’s departure and no Bills were available (at the great risk of the country trade). The free mariners will have to bring back their profits in silver in their own ships. It was supposed Bills would eventually be offered at 5/3d per dollar at 2 years sight, which was last year’s terms.

Saturday 14th February 1795

Private letters from Canton say Shy Kinqua’s failure has not had the bad effects expected. His total debt is reassessed at 1.8 million Taels and his assets at 1 million. The balance will be paid by his relatives and the other Hong merchants.

Brown, President of the Company’s Select Committee at Macau, has negotiated to have the Company’s purchases from Shy Kinqua this season receive precedence in payment and the complete debt to the Company will be discharged within this single season. Shy Kinqua’s other creditors are in the country trade and with loan-brokers. They will get the leavings and no doubt face substantial delays.

Saturday 14th February 1795

The American Major Samuel Shaw has died. He was well-known and liked in India. He died shortly after leaving Canton in the Washington.[12]

Saturday 21st February 1795

A superficial report of Macartney’s embassy to the Kien Lung Emperor. The only new fact is that Macartney had intended to stay in Peking until March but was hurried off by the Peking officials early ‘before it gets too cold’ as they said.

Saturday 21st March 1795

The calligraphy of the Kien Lung Emperor, a sample of which he gave to Lord Macartney in an antique box, has been spoofed into verse:

When a King or a Queen
Sends a great mandarin
And our footstool he humbly approaches,
He must come with prostration
Or meet flagellation
And must give us some whiskies and coaches.

There are several more verses.

Saturday 25th April 1795

A ship from China reports that in January cotton was selling at 10 Taels 5 mace the bale. Rice has gone up to $3.50 (about 10 rupees) per bag as a scarcity has developed. The Hoppo exempts rice ships from the Port Entry Charges.

Saturday 9th May 1795

The Eliza (Gibson), our first ship to China this season, sailed on 5th May. She was followed by the Lowjee Family (Elliot).

The Friendship (Smith) will sail for China today and the Lady Shore (Willcocks) will leave shortly with a rice cargo. The expected Bombay cotton export to Canton this year is 40,000 – 50,000 bales.

Saturday 4th July 1795

The General Meadows (Lloyd) arrived at Calcutta from China with letters to 24th March. The Company’s Select Committee at Canton is selling Bills at the same rate as last season – 5/3d to the old Spanish dollar, 2 years sight. These are favourable terms for the Company but China traders say it will have to improve the rate if it expects to get sufficient silver for the tea purchases.

Shy Kinqua’s failure still overhangs the market. His debts are promised for settlement before the end of this season. He has already paid off 600,000 Taels to the Company and has a further 300,000 Taels in cash to completely discharge this debt.

The other (country trade) creditors remain in the cold.

Bombay cotton is selling at 10 Taels 5 mace and one can get an extra Tael by bartering cotton for tea. Other commodities are low – there are still 1,100 chests of opium unsold from last year.

Saturday 22nd August 1795

The Russians are establishing a factory at the mouth of the Don at Timurnikow. The items listed in the Ukase as permitted for trade are pelts, cordage, oil, wax, iron, wool, raisins, fish, ivory, saltpetre, silk and green tea.

Saturday 17th October 1795

Bombay Presidency, Commercial Dept, 15th October:

Government requires a strong ship to carry the Company’s property of 2,000 bales of cotton and 400 candies of sandalwood to China. Freight will be paid here.

Thereafter the ship will carry the Company’s teas, etc., to England, freight for which will be paid three months after arrival London.

The ship may then load any British goods for export to East Indies except arms and ammunition.

Freight rates Bombay / China to be quoted per Surat Candy of cotton and Bombay Candy of sandalwood; rates China / London in Sterling per measurement ton. The ship must be surveyed and reported fit for carriage of tea. Departure Bombay is required by 1st November.

Saturday 2nd January 1796

The Lowjee Family (Elliott) arrived here from China (via Penang) last Wednesday. She left Whampoa on 10th November 1795. At that time, apart from English ships, there were 2 Swedish, 1 Spanish and 8 Americans in port. At Penang on 26th November she saw HMS Orpheus, HMS Resistance, the Arniston, Surprize Galley, Mary and the Penang grab sailing out to take possession of the Moluccas and Celebes for England.

Dutch power is so shrunken that a small force will be adequate to garrison the principal islands and secure the spice trade to England.

The Company’s treasury at Canton was opened early November for sale of one year Sight Bills at 5/3d per dollar but few sales were made.

Early arrivals sold their Bombay cotton at 9 Taels plus while later arrivals got 10 –12 Taels per bale. Opium was unsellable. Sandalwood rose from 13 to 19 Taels. Rice dropped to 5 rupees the bag as the fear of scarcity receded. On exports, sugar was expensive at over 5 Taels a picul.

The Hong merchants have agreed to settle Shy Kinqua’s debts in six years but the Select has said its too long and wants it all paid at once. Munqua is supposed to be in difficulty as the other Hongs will not admit him to any share in this season’s cargoes. They do not want another Shy Kinqua debacle.

Saturday 30th January 1796

The Madras Courier says Dutch attempts to improve their hold on Java have entailed the subjection of the Malay and Chinese residents at Batavia. The oppression has caused an insurrection. There are 30,000 Chinese in Batavia and they have joined with all the other Asian expatriates there.

The emancipation of slaves under the French Constitution, and its inference for Dutch Colonies, has encouraged many of those expatriates to join in an immense protest against the Dutch government.

Saturday 6th February 1796

The Gabriel (Carse) arrived Calcutta 11th January from Macau. She reports cotton has risen to a sale price of 14 Taels a picul at Canton and may go higher. She stopped at Malacca on her return and the Company’s expeditionary force remains there but will sail for the invasion of the Moluccas in early February.

Saturday 5th March 1796

A Portuguese snow has arrived at Calcutta. She sailed from Macau on 20th December 1795. She reports the Emperor’s edict arrived some weeks before her departure containing instructions for the liquidation of Sky Kinqua’s debt in six annual instalments. No interest will be paid over that period.

Saturday 5th March 1796

Letter from Manila, 31st December 1795 – the annual treasure galleon from Acapulco has not come and the Spanish colonial government is pleading poverty.

The Governor is trying to recruit soldiers and cavalry to reinforce the forts (presumably against the English). He is also wary of the Filipinos being infected by French principles. It’s a bad time to be short of funds.

Saturday 2nd April 1796

The Eliza (Gibson) arrived from China last week. Cotton was in demand and selling at 13 –14 Taels the picul. Sharksfin was 17-18 Taels, tin 17 and pepper 14 Taels the picul. No-one is buying opium (the Dutch sell-off has deranged the entire Asian market).[13]

The Company’s treasury is open for receipt of cash in exchange for one year Sight Bills on London or Calcutta at 5/3d per silver dollar (old head[14]). Few subscriptions have been received in view of the depressed state of our smuggling trade.

Saturday 2nd April 1796

Excerpt from Anderson’s narrative of the British embassy to China:

18th September – Macartney went to the palace this morning. The Emperor declined to make a written treaty. He was prepared to review the duties payable by British ships at Canton. He would always care for his own subjects and withdraw his favour from any foreign nations trading incompatibly with his people’s interests.

He gave Macartney a box containing pictures of all the previous Ching Emperors. With each picture is a poem written personally by the relevant Emperor describing himself, his government and the line of conduct he commends to his successor. It is unique and absolutely priceless.

On handing this casket to Macartney the Emperor said ‘give this to your King with the advice that although the present appears small, it is the most valuable thing I own and something I had reserved to give to my son to inspire him to follow the noble example of his ancestors’.

The Emperor’s words were translated for Macartney by Mr Plumb (the name given to one of the two Chinese students from the College in Naples who are acting as interpreters)

Saturday 11th June 1796

The merchants of Bombay have met at the Bombay Insurance Office concerning convoying of the cotton fleet to China. The government has asked them for a date so it can supply an escort.

On considering the matter, the merchants suppose it would be more profitable to send the cotton in two separate fleets to mitigate the depreciation of value of Bombay cotton when arriving at the Canton market at one time.

The Upton Castle, Phoenix, Friendship, Travancore, Helen and Jehangir will comprise the first fleet and will sail 5th July. They pick up the escort cruiser at the Nicobars for passage through the Straits.

The second fleet will sail on the next spring tide on 20th July.

Saturday 23rd July 1796

The Bombay fleet to China is departing. Many of them have squeezed 300-400 more bales of cotton on board than they formerly loaded. This has been possible using the steam press and the new cordage that Mr Tate has introduced from Manila – it bales the cotton tighter.

Saturday 6th January 1798

The Gunjaver has arrived from Canton. She left there 23rd November. The Company’s Canton Treasury was then open for silver in exchange for 12 month Sight Bills on London at 5/6d old head dollars or 24 month Bills at 5/10½d.[15]

1.2 million Rupees was also collected by the Canton Treasury as a loan for 30-day Bills on Bengal at 38½ ‘old head’ dollars per 100 current rupees. This was a poor rate and was raised to 41 ‘old heads’ with option to pay in money or certificates, on which terms it was heavily subscribed by the China traders who have no other means of remittance since the Danish and Dutch Treasuries have withdrawn from Far East.[16] About 1.5 million Rupees, proceeds of the above exchanges, have been freighted here (Bombay) for the Company by the Nancy grab. It should relieve mercantile distress in India. Cotton is selling at 12 Taels per picul in Canton.

Saturday 6th January 1798

The increasing Chinese community on Penang is making the island prosperous. It certainly seems very fertile. The large fleet and numerous troops recently conveyed via there (for the invasion of Malacca) were easily provisioned and, in spite of increased demand, prices remained very reasonable. All necessaries and luxuries were available. Chickens and ducks were sold at $1 each.

Saturday 6th January 1798

India Gazette, 11th December – The Nancy grab (Carnegie), which has just arrived, left Canton on 3rd November. A few days earlier the Armenia (Sands) arrived Canton from Bombay with an opium cargo, 1,200 chests of which remained unsold when the Nancy sailed. The asking price was $180 per chest with no buyers.

Capt Carnegie says letters from Manila dated 18th September 1797 and received at Canton while he was there, say the Spanish Governor was completing his preparations to repel a British invasion. All Spanish warships have been moved to Cavite.

Saturday 20th January 1798

The Governor of Manila has received an address from the neutral merchants of the city (Americans, Danes, Swedes, Hamburgers, etc) dated 1st September 1797:

“Your mild and liberal government is well known to us but a great many others are unaware of it. Many recall the unfortunate events of 1781/82 when two neutral ships with their cargoes were seized in this port.

“We write to counteract the aspersions of the ignorant. Any interruption to the trade of Manila will cause people to leave and diminish your government’s revenue. Encouragement of neutral trade will assure Manila of a plentiful supply of provisions some of which are necessary for the annual galleon to Spain. We wish to reassure our correspondents that trade with Manila is safe.

“We beseech you to indicate the nature of Regulations you will apply on neutral ships under European or Asian colours coming from Calcutta or Madras. Are they welcome? Can they sell their cargoes without impediment under your protection? Will you confirm there is absolutely no risk to them of arrest or confiscation?

“You may be surprised by our importunity when you have cared for us so well but public faith, so essential to commercial confidence, has been violated once and traders are doubtful. This spirit of distrust has reduced our numbers and allowed the British from Bengal and the coastal traders to monopolise all the business. This has restrained commerce in general and prevented the export of Manila goods. We cannot stay here without trade to sustain us and all the places in Asia from which we buy goods for Manila are now under British domination. We fear there will be difficulties in executing our orders unless your intentions are published.

Sgd Stephen Locatelli, Petrus Everhardus Camper, etc.

Published response of the Spanish Governor of Manila:

The old case of prize-taking in 1781/82 applied laws that have since been rescinded. All vessels visiting Manila since the start of my administration have been welcomed whether they are my national allies or neutrals. We have assisted them all even-handedly and you should know our good faith. We encourage them to visit and partake of the privilege of exporting Manila goods. Is that not the reason that you Memorialists came here?

All neutrals will in future continue to have safe conduct and free conveyance of their goods from any port in India to Manila although they may have been taxed by the British Customs en route. Spanish law supports commerce and these goods will continue to be accepted here. The Memorialists may, on the faith of this public proclamation, continue to pursue their business in neutral bottoms provided there is no trace of doubt as to their neutrality.

Saturday 24th February 1798

Four Company ships – Hope, Arniston, Cirencester and Thomas Coutts – sailed directly from London to China and arrived there on 26th December 1797.

They are said to carry $1 million in specie for investment. Cotton is selling at 11-12 Taels per picul.[17]

Saturday 24th February 1798

According to George Staunton, China’s annual revenue equates with £46 millions. On the supposed population of 200 millions, this is 5/- per head. For comparison, our Colony of Ireland pays 8/- per head, pre-Revolutionary France £1. 6s 0d while English people today pay £1.14s 0d.[18]

Staunton says a popular British export is ‘sing-songs’ – small clockwork toys, lavishly decorated with pearls and diamonds, and costing some £800 – £1,000 a pair (the Chinese buy these things in pairs). Some of them are snuff boxes, others are music boxes. The moving parts may be a dancing couple or a bird that moves its head and wings and appears to sing a song. They are very cute and the officials love them.

Previously the main source of revenue of the Ching was a land tax but that was substituted for a poll tax by Kien Lung. There are import duties at the frontiers and transit duties between provinces. Every province has some product or manufacture that is valued in the others. These are known as Provincial Treasures and the tax derived from their transit throughout the empire is substantial. There is no tax on any of the five grains.[19]

Saturday 17th March 1798

It is little known that the Chinese have been printing documents for ages. The quality of their press is of course inferior to ours. They write a page, then glue it to a piece of wood and cut away the unwritten paper and wood to create a block of embossed characters. This wood-block is then used for the print run. A friend of the Editor has sent him a sample of the Peking Gazette. It is printed on thin paper and stitched into double leaves to form a brochure.

An interesting item in this Peking Gazette reveals that the Chinese transport their armies in carriages. The French recently copied this to raise the siege of Dunkirk although the usual form of transport for troops is to march.

Our translation below is from the French as this document was provided by a French missionary at Peking:

Peking Gazette, October 1797 – The Kien Lung Emperor is 87 years old. He preserves his health and faculties and involves himself in the administration of Empire as before.

The young Ka Hing Emperor will not reign until the death of his father. He remains an undistinguished man at Court.

There are rebellions in Szechuan, Hu Kuang and Shan Si. The Ching have inadequate Manchurian troops to deal with these insurrections and 3,000 men have been called from Mongolia (China employs the tribes of Mongolia much as Britain uses Hessian mercenaries). They will travel in carriages but flooded roads are delaying their progress. The Emperor is at Jehol and cannot return until the roads are repaired. Food is scarce and the silver Tael in Peking is now worth 1,200 cash.

Saturday 31st March 1798

The Asia (McInnes) left Macau 10th February and has just arrived here. HMS Trident (64) with 14 Indiamen for Europe and two country ships Jehangir and Fairlie were in China at that time.

The two bits of interesting news from Canton are a scarcity of silver and a consequent fall in the cotton price to 10 Taels.

Saturday 31st March 1798

The Madras Courier of 14th March says the Spanish fleet at Manila has put to sea. It consists of three capital ships (2 x 84s and a 74) and 3 frigates.

Saturday 14th April 1798

Asiatic Mirror, 21st March – The Danish snow Duntzfelt has arrived at Calcutta from Manila. The Spanish Governor of that place has overcome his fear of an imminent British invasion and, when the snow left on 4th February, the fleet of Spanish warships was preparing to cruise against the British merchant fleet then at China and expected to shortly leave on the commencement of the summer monsoon.

Saturday 21st April 1798

The Jehangir which arrived from China on 13th March reports the Hong merchant Gowqua is in financial difficulty and is offering to compound his debts with an 80% pay-off. He is supported by some other Hongs. The earlier reports of Pauqua’s difficulties appear incorrect. In consequence to the uncertainties over Gowqua’s payments, the market prices for all imports have fallen.

Saturday 14th July 1798

Admiral Rainier is ordered to China for the protection of British trade at the request of the Select Committee there. He goes with three frigates – HMS Arrogant, Fox and Victorious.

Saturday 1st December 1798

The Swedish factory at Macau is in mourning. Palme the Head supercargo died at the end of July 1798; then the second died at Canton on 10th August and finally the third Morras passed away on 19th August.

Saturday 29th December 1798

HMS Intrepid convoyed the Company’s ships to Macau on 5th November. She brought nearly £1 million in silver in case the contraband receipts continue small. That amount of silver is more than sufficient to buy the entire year’s supply of tea. The Company is selling Bills at the same good rate as last year.

Saturday 13th March 1799

On 11th March the Sarah arrived at Calcutta from Canton. George Cuming the 2nd of the Select Committee and James Drummond, another Company supercargo, arrived on her. Cuming got an eleven-gun salute.

They say the Franco-Spanish fleet was at Macau on 27th January. HMS Virginie was then in Taipa Roads replacing her mizzen mast while HMS Arrogant and Intrepid were off Sam Kok at the Bocca Tigris. The British ships tried to work their way to the enemy overnight but only discovered their buoys with cut cables off the Great Ladrone.

On 8th February our East India convoy got underway with three Americans tagging along.

Cotton and opium are still hard to sell at Canton; tin and pepper are unsellable.

Saturday 23rd March 1799

A letter from Penang dated 6th February says a Portuguese ship has arrived from Macau with the news that a joint Franco-Spanish fleet from Manila has been cruising off the Pearl estuary in mid to late January. It comprises 5 Spanish and 2 French warships.

HMS Arrogant and Virginie have gone to Macau to convoy the Indiamen back to Calcutta.

The Spanish contingent was reluctant to commence this cruise as the Governor of Manila still expects an invasion by the English. He has 2,000 European troops and has raised a force of 16,000 Filipinos as well.

Admiral Sercey, the French naval commander, was however dissatisfied with the Spanish Governor’s defensive posture. He ultimately got agreement to have the fleet mobilised and put to sea to distress British shipping in the China Seas.

Saturday 23rd March 1799

Last year’s annual Manila galleon was wrecked on 23rd September 1798 on the return journey from Manila to Acapulco. She struck on Narantoss Rocks and was completely lost. Her frigate escort continued to Acapulco.

Saturday 23rd May 1799

The Princess Royal has sailed from Bombay for Madras and Canton carrying George Cuming back to duty as 2nd supercargo of the Select.

Saturday 25th April 1801

Notice, 21st April 1801 – the Bombay Governor invites ship owners to quote freight rates they are willing to accept for the carriage of cargo to China.

The Indiamen Henry Addington, Ocean and Nottingham will arrive here in May and be dispatched to Canton in August carrying the Company’s Bombay cottons. That is the time of departure.

Interested ship owners are not required to use the Company’s remittance facility at Canton but it is available to them at the published exchange rates.

(By a later advert, ship owners using the Company’s finance get preference – commercial interest in this advertisement is greater than expected)[20]

Saturday 23rd May 1801

The Bombay Courier Editor has received some translations of Chinese news from Peking:

Peking Gazettes 22nd & 23rd April 1800:

The request of the Viceroy of Chih Li to open examination halls in Manchuria is refused. Tartars are martial people. They should learn horse-riding and use of the bow, not literary stuff. All national examinations will continue to be held only at Peking.

Peking Gazettes 28th & 29th April 1800:

Edict of the Emperor : Kei Lung petitioned to command the army in Szechuan where he had previously served, saying he understood the country and would be victorious. We needed an officer of his rank there and permitted his request. He started as Viceroy quite well but for months he has done nothing. He stayed in town and sent off a subordinate to attack the rebels. That subordinate likewise stayed in town and sent his assistant.

This leaderless force was defeated by the rebels who might then have advanced to and captured the provincial capital had not one of their leaders celebrated a birthday with a long party. Fortunately I (the Emperor) had ordered General Te Lin Tay to leave Shensi and enter Szechuan and he defeated the rebels and captured two of their leaders. I reduced Kei Lung from the 1st to the 3rd rank but left him his command in the expectation of more diligent service.

The rebels have now taken another city from him. He is divested of all rank and office and is to be gaoled in Chengtu. His three sons are likewise stripped of their ranks and offices. Li Pao is made Acting Viceroy of Szechuan and will investigate Kei Lung’s offences.

Peking Gazette, 28th & 29th June 1800:

Ki King, Viceroy of the Two Kwong and Ki Shan, Hoppo of Canton report that Punkiqua and other Hong merchants together with Wan Yung Sze and the salt merchants have petitioned to be permitted to share the military expenses of the Emperor in the present campaign to the extent of 300,000 Taels which is the balance of their former offer of 500,000 Taels that the Emperor has not yet accepted.

We reported this offer on the occasion of the award of official positions to the Hong and Salt merchants at which time we accepted 200,000 Taels and excused them the payment of the 300,000 Taels. Now they ask to donate again.

For their convenience the Emperor allows they may draw the funds from the provincial treasury and repay it over the next six years. The Viceroy will tell Us the names of each donor and the amount of his donation.

Peking Gazette 31st July 1800:

The annals of Hong Hei (Kang Hsi) show that when military law and discipline are strictly observed, the enemies of China are vigorously attacked. The conduct of each campaign in Hong Hei’s reign is exactly reported and the roles of commanders in victories and defeats is clearly shown.

Nowadays whenever an army is sent-off, it only reports victories.

All Generals and Colonels, all Viceroys and Governors, are to ensure that army reporting is scrupulously precise. Claims of undeserved merit will be punished. The army has failed to suppress the Pa Lin Ka. They are merely a turbulent tribe of Chinese. The army today is a shadow of what it was under Hong Hei – its all show and ostentation.

Victories and defeats must be reported in detail. The results are not secrets – many people know them and it will be easy to discover the Generals who misrepresent their battles. It is a particular problem in Shensi, Kanfu and Hu Kwang where the Viceroys and Governors should be extra diligent.

Peking Gazette 18th & 19th April 1800:

1/ A eunuch belonging to Officer Jen Ming has been caught squeezing. Jen Ming was previously forbidden to have eunuchs. The High Court will investigate. In future only the highest officials and Princes of the Royal Family may have eunuchs. They are limited to four eunuchs each. If they have more, the surplus is to be delivered to the Court for Our service.

2/ The Viceroy of Chih Li reports that the officers sent to buy grain for the Imperial granaries have been paying unreasonably low prices and requiring the peasant farmers to bring their grain overland for considerable distances. He will investigate with his colleagues and stop this imposition on the farmers.

Saturday 16th January 1802

The Americans seem to be moving into the China trade. When the Company’s fleet arrived at Canton in autumn 1801 it found five country ships from India and eighteen American ships from New England (Perseverance, Pacific Trader, Lovely Lass, Minerva, Dispatch, India, Mount Vernon, Thomas Russell, Connecticut, Diana, Ann & Hope, Lavinia, Aspasia, Hazard, Polly, Industry, Batley and Arab). The American ships are all quite small but their numbers are impressive.

Saturday 12th June 1802

The Indiaman Walmer Castle left Portsmouth on 13th February and has just arrived at Bombay. She brings 28 Chinese who are returning to their own country.

Saturday 25th September 1802

Accounts from Canton say Muslim invaders have entered China at So Che (Yarkand) and have reached Tsing Hai (Kokonor), over halfway to Peking.[21] They are supported by a good part of the population around the Takla Makan and seem to have a well-appointed army. The Emperor has sent a force to oppose them which has reportedly obtained a signal victory.

Meanwhile in Eastern China a rare drought has emptied vast tracts of land. The people have migrated in search of food and water.

Saturday 16th October 1802

HMS Amboinya arrived at Madras from Macau which she left on 29th May. She reports a fall in Indian cotton sale prices to 9 – 10½ Taels per picul. A month or two earlier it was selling at 18-19 Taels. This collapse caused the buyers of the former (expensive) shipments to find grounds to reject their cotton purchases and send them back to Canton for resale. At the end of April 40,000 bales arrived at Canton from Nanking (where the big national brokers, to whom the Hong merchants sell, have their offices).

The Hongs have little cash. They are offering payment for imports, half in cash and half in Company Bills which they endorse to the sellers.[22]

Wednesday 20th October 1802 Extraordinary

(This article is included here for the footnote)

The Company’s Directors have discussed private trade to India. It has grown greatly in recent years. The permission to send Indian-built ships to London is revoked with the peace and the Directors are discussing the situation with the Earl of Dartmouth who is now President of the Board of Control.

The Board is not supposed to interfere in the Company’s commercial affairs, but Dundas, who is trusted by the Directors, has been spearheading the introduction of private trade into India. The City bankers want a share of the trade-financing business and all the London merchants think Indian imports and exports can be greatly increased.

The Company takes its traditional view. Profits from the tea trade are actually sufficient for its commercial endeavours. Growth of Indian exports is inconvenient because the Company needs to match the quantity of British imports to ensure a balanced trade. The Company needs to establish its view that British imports to India cannot be increased otherwise an adverse trade balance will develop – British imports are items for the expatriate British whose numbers it intends to keep constant.

It knows cheap Indian exports of cotton and indigo would be attractive in London, but they would disrupt the existing trade in those commodities with America and Spain and that might attract those Liverpool and London Houses to look for alternative profits in India.

If it can obtain general agreement in London for the position that there is no realistic expectation of increasing British exports to India, it automatically avoids discussion on increasing the return trade – no-one wants to increase Indian imports to London if it means exporting gold and silver to settle the trade balance, which will draw the attention of the City and ultimately the Ministry if not redressed. Thus exporting Indian goods to London will bring about the predictable opening of Indian trade to all-comers.

There is a course of dealing established between the Company and the City which is based on mutual non-interference and helps each party to regulate its market in a predictable way. Therefore the Company will not stimulate Indian exports.[23]

Saturday 13th November 1802

The Company’s frigate Alert has arrived at Calcutta from China which she left on 22nd June. She reports the Hindustan was lost in Taipa roads in a typhoon. She had completed loading and was on the point of leaving for Calcutta. All the crew and passengers survived.

Saturday 1st January 1803

The Carron (Stewart) arrived from China last Monday with the good news that cotton had improved to 14 Taels. The supply was totally in the hands of opulent men who were able to dictate their own terms by withholding supply when unfavourable to sell. They were however unable to withstand the effect of the new supply that arrived in October and November when 30,000 bales of last year’s stock still remained on their hands.

Opium is selling poorly and imports from Europe were equally low.

Saturday 8th January 1803

News from Canton – A large body of men has emerged in the last few months whom we call the Illuminati.[24] They identify themselves to each other by innocuous signs. They have an initiation into membership involving the exchange of blood- and fraternal-oaths.

There is a prophecy that a man will arise before 1804 to depose the Ching and restore the Ming dynasty. A dignitary who lives 50 miles out of Canton where the Illuminati are strong and who earlier bought official rank, encouraged his neighbours to suppose that his son was the awaited man and some thousands of peasants congregated under his banner. He had the temerity to wear the imperial yellow.

The Viceroy of Kwangtung has led an army against them and killed 5,000 of the son’s followers which procured the desertion of many thousands more. The lad was betrayed and captured and received the slicing death (formally deft knife work at the limb joints, distal to proximal, culminating in a fatal thrust to the heart – but it is commonly abbreviated). Since then things have been quiet. The Viceroy has not however returned immediately to Canton and it is supposed there remain dissident elements for him to contend with.

Saturday 15th January 1803

The disturbances in Kwangtung have approached close to Canton and are preventing the dispatch of our woollens and metals up-country.

It seems the Viceroy’s efforts have had less effect than reported. As a result the prices obtainable for foreign imports has fallen.

Saturday 22nd January 1803

A Spanish frigate from Manila to Macau was lost en route in late October / early November and the Select Committee at Canton sent a Botany Bay ship out to search. The frigate was carrying a large amount of silver and its salvage will be valuable.

Saturday 29th January 1803

Three big ships are to be added to the China fleet this season. The Directors had allotted 15,648 tons but it is belatedly thought this will be insufficient. The new additions bring the capacity to near 20,000 tons.

Saturday 29th January 1803

Two of the five Portuguese ships from Macau this year have arrived at Calcutta. They are the Carmo and the Pouvidor Pereira. They bring passengers M/s P V Bello, J J de Souza and J J Gomes. The ships arrived via Malacca.

Saturday 29th January 1803

The Calcutta fleet to Manila has arrived safely. Private letters say the market for Indian goods is very depressed.

Saturday 19th February 1803

Robert Money of the Company’s China establishment has been drowned at Calcutta. He was coming up the river in a ferry boat, escorting a treasure chest containing $30,000 of gold dust from Canton, when the boat hit a passing river barge and overturned. His body has not been found. Neither has the gold.

Saturday 23rd April 1803

Notice, 23rd April – Anyone wishing to ship goods to China under the relaxation of the Company’s monopoly should send in their sealed proposals before 13th May. The China fleet is expected to start arriving at Bombay in June. No opium may be shipped. The proceeds of China-trade sales plus the freight are to be exchanged at the Company’s Treasury at Canton for 12 month Sight Bills on London at the exchange rate of 5/6d per dollar.

(advertisement is in English, Gujerati and Parsee)

Saturday 14th May 1803

In response to our previous advertisement, the demand for tonnage to China has been great and the Governor-in-Council has resolved to auction whatever is available. All the Company’s usual reservations and indulgences are continued. The auction will be on 20th May.

Saturday 19th November 1803

Letter from Canton, 12th August 1803 – the pirates in the approaches to Canton River are getting bolder.

One pirate boat approached an American brig which mistook it for the pilot and was very nearly captured. They usually make a fearful sound as they approach. Fortunately the captain saw their pikes and spears in the bottoms of their boats and alerted his crew. The Captain had not visited China before and was reluctant to fire until they fired at him. After that brief exchange the Americans sailed off.

An insurrection is reported in Northern China but no Chinese is talking about it.

Thursday 3rd April 1804 Extraordinary

Report of Commodore Dance’s encounter with Admiral Linois fleet off Pulo Aor:

The Company’s returning China fleet of 16 Indiamen each carried an average £200,000 cargo. It sailed with 11 country ships with an unreported amount of cargo.

On 15th February Dance encountered the French fleet. He formed his ships in line ahead and hoisted his colours. The four French warships did likewise (one Dutch brig in the fleet, making five). At noon the French attacked and it seemed the rear would be cut-off from the van and the centre.

Fortunately, Capt Timmings of the Indiaman Royal George advised Dance to tack and throw his ship abreast of the French admiral. He was well supported by nearby ships. This decisive move caused Linois to waver. The action lasted 40 minutes until the French withdrew. The only fatality was a seaman on Timming’s ship. Dance ordered a pursuit for 3 hours and then resumed his course for the Malacca Straits. The fleet anchored at Malacca on 18th February. The country ships held a subscription and collected £1,138 for Dance which they presented with a suitable Address.

Of the 11 country ships three were from Madras and the rest from Bombay. We later heard Linois had information from some Portuguese at Macau that three of our ships had been fitted-out in China as warships, each having 60 guns and 500 men aboard. When he saw three of our fleet bearing down on him he may have assumed they were the ships he had been advised of.

Timmings is the son of the late Major Timmings of the Chatham Marines. This family has distinguished itself many times in the Royal Navy.

General Decaen, in charge of French activities in the East from the French base at Mauritius, reported to the Minister of Marine in Paris that Linois got his information on the sailing dates of the fleet and numbers of ships in the convoy from the captains of neutral ships departing Macau before the Company’s fleet. Linois said he was convinced that Dance was inviting battle because he (Dance) concealed his second deck of cannon until the moment of engagement.

Saturday 2nd June 1804

An American brig, recently arrived from Batavia, reports that Admiral Linois arrived there and reported an engagement with 2 capital ships and 3 British frigates convoying a fleet of Indiamen and that the superior force of the enemy obliged him to withdraw. This must refer to his encounter with Dance’s fleet off Pulo Aor.

Saturday 29th December 1804

The Company’s China fleet under Commodore Dance has reached England. Dance is knighted. The Directors have rewarded him with 2,200 guineas; Timmings gets 1,100 guineas. All the other Captains get 600 guineas and the officers get some money as well. Even midshipmen and petty officers are included as well as a passenger, Lt Fowler of the Royal Navy, whom Dance consulted over tactics. The total presents are £50,000.

The value of the hulls and cargoes is being stated to have been £8 millions (must include some valuable stuff on the private ships or perhaps the Company has used its expected auction proceeds rather than purchase price for value). If this convoy had been captured it would have severely embarrassed the Company. Its just the sort of thing that could lose the war for England.

The poet Hayley has written two lines on the event:

I honour the trusty and brave Captain Dance
The merchant who beat the Marengo of France.

Saturday 9th March 1805

Linois is in trouble over his failure to capture the homebound China fleet with their rich cargo of tea, silk and silver. Napoleon has discovered that the same ship that brought the news of Linois’ failure also carried $100,000 belonging to the Admiral. It has been deposited in the National Treasury for the time being.

Linois’ main line of defence is that the Dutch Admiral at Batavia failed to arrive in time to support him.

Saturday 29th December 1804

The Anna (Smith) has arrived at Calcutta from China. She reports that the rebellion in Kwangtung is still raging but the Viceroy seems unconcerned.

Saturday 12th January 1805

Statement of the annual estimated costs and charges (C&C) of produce and the nett profits on sales at the Company’s auctions in England in £ millions from March 1799 – March 1804:[25]

India goods China goods













Nett profits







  C & C







Nett profits







NB – Charges are mainly Carriage

Saturday 19th January 1805

The Bombay country ship Page has been sold to the Chinese Government. She is to be fitted out as a cruiser against the pirates infesting the Pearl estuary and delta.

Saturday 26th January 1805

The country ship La Paix (Wright) has arrived Calcutta from China on 26th December. She reports Prices Current when she left were:

Bengal cotton

Bombay cotton



14.5 – 14.8 Taels per bale

12.5 – 13.0 Taels per bale

150 Taels per picul

$1,350 – $1,360 per chest.

Saturday 16th February 1805

The Portuguese ship Luconia sailed from Macau 3rd November 1804 and has just arrived at Calcutta. She brings $400,000 Spanish, proceeds of trade.

Saturday 23rd February 1805

The Portuguese ship Rosario arrived at Trincomalee on 15th January from China bringing the Governor of Macau, Jose Joaquim de Souza, and his family.

Saturday 23rd February 1805

The Lord Castlereagh (McFarlane) has broken the speed record for China voyages. She left Bombay on 15th September passed through the Straits of Malacca to Palawan coast to Manila and thence to Whampoa arriving 4th November (7 weeks).

She remained 4 days and returned to the Sand Heads on 13th February – that is under four months for the round voyage.

Saturday 2nd March 1805

Several of the China fleet have arrived back at Calcutta. They say trade at Canton has been profitable this season. Sugar supply is reduced owing to the failure of the crops (or an effect of the insurrection) and little was available for purchase. Cotton and opium sold at record prices.

Formerly we had nothing the Chinese wanted and we had to pay specie for our tea and silk, but the supposition of economists that China would swallow the silver of the west was confounded this year. Great quantities of both gold and silver have been exported from Canton.

The great increase in sales of Indian cotton and opium has changed the pattern of trade and the lack of Chinese sugar exports increased the amount of specie we have taken out of China this year. If this continues for a few years it might reduce the value of precious metals in Europe.

The problem of piracy has worsened. They infest every creek between Macau and Canton. An American ship (usually small) going up the river was attacked by many pirate boats but successfully fought off the attack. The pirates are most densely concentrated at the mouth of the Broadway.[26] There are innumerable canals through which they escape with the booty. They have evolved a new scheme of ransom, They keep only a few hostages for security.

The Portuguese have an old contract with the Canton government to provide two ships at Macau for anti-piracy patrols. These are supposed to protect the river trade but have been neither adequate nor effective. The Viceroy has bought some European ships for the same purpose and has also fitted out a fleet of armed Chinese junks to cruise against the pirates.

The increase in piracy reflects the disordered internal state of China. There are rebellions in the north which have attracted the attention of government and whenever that happens the unaffected areas slip into anarchy too.

The Company had nine (named) huge Indiamen at Canton in 1804. Of the country trade that year, four Bengal ships, one Madras ship, three Bombay ships and nine Bombay / Madras ships were involved (Bombay ships mostly export cotton whilst Bengal ships carry both cotton and opium.) The total amount of English ships to Whampoa was over 15,000 tons. The Americans sent 36 (named) ships to Canton in 1804 but they are mostly 200-300 tons and totalled slightly less than 10,000 tons. A couple of Swedish ships and a single Dane turned up this year.

Saturday 9th March 1805

The remainder of the China fleet has arrived. They took the inner passage between the Paracels and the Vietnam coast which has never been fully charted and several bottomed on the shoal (van Holland’s Garden) near Pulo Cecir de Mer – its over 6 miles in diameter. HMS Grampus and the Indiaman Canton were heavily damaged.

The best prices are being paid in Canton for imports of bird’s nests, camphor, Bombay carnelians, ivory, nutmeg, mercury and tortoise-shell. Opium is firm at $1,350 per chest.

Nankeen silks are selling at 360 Taels the bale. Hyson tea is 58 Taels; hyson skin 28 Taels, pu-erh (bohea) 12 Taels.

Saturday 30th March 1805

Macau, March 6th – 350 Chinese emigrants have embarked on one of our Indiamen at Macau for Bencoolen where they are to supervise the cultivation of the spice plants we obtained from the Dutch colonies. The Chinese are skilful market gardeners.

Saturday 1st June 1805

The Friendship sailed from Macau for Cochin China but sprang a leak and became totally water-logged. She had to be run aground off Hainan Island. All the cargo was damaged by water. One man was drowned getting ashore.

The rest of the officers and crew were well cared for by the Magistrate of the island and junks were provided to move all of them to the mainland. They travelled overland to Canton arriving 17th December. Every man received 30 Cash per day for his needs.

Saturday 2nd November 1805

Russia is sending an embassy to China. It is expected to stay in Peking for three years. The ambassador is Count Narischkin who will be paid 60,000 Roubles a year. M de Baikov is appointed Secretary of Legation. Another embassy is planned to Tibet. The embassies will include numerous scientists.

Saturday 30th November 1805

The Directors have appointed Samuel Peach as President of the Select Committee at Canton in place of James Drummond.[27]

Saturday 21st December 1805

News from China:

  • The Daniel (Fraser) has arrived at Calcutta from China and reports the pirates in the approaches to the river have become very numerous and formidable. They attempted to take HMS Harrier and attacked an armed Portuguese brig too. HMS Harrier and HMS Phaeton were at Macau. The pirates are selling protection – they burn villages that do not pay and have approached very near to Canton itself.
  • The Thomas Henchman (Hodges) has also arrived from China and reports his cargo of Bengal cotton sold for 14.5 Taels a bale.

Saturday 18th January 1806

Letter from Canton:

The pirates at Canton are in control of a large part of the river delta. In early October they burned several villages in sight of Whampoa and dared the officials to stop them. The Security Merchants requested ship commanders to send as many armed men as they could spare to protect the factories at Canton. It is widely said the inhabitants of the southern provinces are generally dissatisfied with government and willing to revolt. The government response has been to issue pompous Edicts describing the arrests and executions of pirates and warning the populace not to break the law. These are published almost every day.

Recently a junk which came down the coast for shopping in Macau was taken in sight of the Bar Fort[28] as it departed with a cargo worth 200,000 Taels. The alternative to distributing our goods by sea is to ship them through the inland waterways. The infestation of pirates on inland waterways decreases the further one travels from the coast but unfortunately the prevalence of Customs officials increases on a inverse ratio and they are as bad as pirates.

When the pirates come close to Canton, the officials fit-out some boats for counter-attack and that tends to keep the pirates at bay. What the pirates would really like is to fire and loot Canton – there is more wealth there than in all the rest of the province – and they are coming closer to the suburbs. The merchants are securing their property in safer places but the officials seem less concerned. When the foreigners landed 200 armed men from the ships to tackle the pirates around Whampoa, we just did it without permit or passport and the government did not know if we were landing to help or hinder them. The Canton government does not attempt to physically control its people – it publishes Edicts for their direction and supposes they are sufficiently mature to control themselves.

There are now four fleets sent out by the Viceroy to ‘find and annihilate’ the pirates. Each government fleet totals about 40 – 50 boats with each boat having 6 carriage guns, 30 sailors and 60 soldiers. It is difficult for the commanders of these government fleets to confront the pirate fleets which are generally much larger. The foreign traders have little expectation of the Canton officials dealing effectively with pirates – we prefer to improve the defences on our own ships and warn our crews to take care. Care is imperatively necessary – we hear the pirates are quite likely to eat some parts of their captives (the gall fluid of a brave opponent diluted in wine is particularly esteemed – the gall bladder being supposed to be the seat of courage).

Saturday 1st February 1806

George Baring, the Manager of the Company’s Agency House in China (formerly called the House of Trade), has arrived Calcutta on the Lord Castlereagh. Cotton is selling at 15 Taels the bale at Canton but opium is down at $1,150 per chest. Sales are still profitable.

Saturday 8th February 1806

The last China fleet to London (arrived summer 1805) brought 233,330 chests (24,657,495 lbs) of tea, 3,475 bales (487,253 lbs) of raw silk, 1,143,487 lbs of Indian pepper, 175,000 pieces of Nankeens and 9,000 quintals of Mocha coffee.

Saturday 5th April 1806

Letter from Canton of 31st January – Indian cotton continues to sell well due to the insurrections in China and the non-availability of the local harvest. Bengal is selling at 14 – 15 Taels a bale and Bombay at 13 – 13½ depending on quality. Opium is depressed at $1,150 the chest. The Americans have brought Fijian sandalwood this year which has sold well.

Saturday 19th April 1806

Two Russian frigates, last from Japan, have touched at Canton for provisions. They are on a voyage of discovery. The Russians are supposed to connect with China via Kiakhta (Cakurtu) and the Canton Viceroy has charged them double duties.

They refused to pay and the Viceroy has referred the matter to Peking for a ruling. This delay will allow the Russians to remain for a few months and check out Canton and Macau.

Saturday 26th April 1806

In the last trading season at Canton (1805 / 06) there were 50 American ships at Whampoa that loaded about 8,000 – 10,000 tons of export cargo, much of which finds its way to the European market. This season the Eugenie was freighted to America with nearly 800 tons of tea at a rate of $100 per ton.

Canton is said to be full of American adventurers, many of whom retire after a few year’s trade with handsome fortunes. At present there are over a dozen Americans who have been in residence for a couple of years and made great capital. The Americans represent a challenge to our global monopoly of colonial goods.

Its not just in China – they are everywhere. Even the coffee trade of Mocha receives their attention. In the quarter November 1805 – January 1806 twenty ships visited Mocha for trade of which ten were American, eight Arab, and one each, Portuguese and English. The Company’s purchases of coffee are done at Bombay to which port the Arabs bring supply for trans-shipment to our Indiamen.

Saturday 28th June 1806

The two Russian ships that visited Macau are on a political and commercial mission. One belongs to the Tsar and the other to the Russian American Company that has the Tsar’s Charter to trade along the American west coast. The costs of the voyage for both ships are all being paid by the Tsar. They arrived from the American north west coast under the command of Capt Krumstern. They had tried to off-load an ambassador onto the Japanese but, apart from a few cordial interviews, they made no progress and he is still on board.

When they arrived at Macau the Chinese were curious to know who they were. Once they were satisfied the strangers were not warlike, they were invited up the river. They had a cargo of furs from the American north west which sold well.

Their commercial arrangements are made by a supercargo provided by the Russian America Company. They bought a large amount of nankeens, some high-quality tea and a small amount of silk cloth.

The Tsar wants to open maritime trade between Western Russia and China. The Russians drink much tea but the price of supply via Kiakhta at St Petersburg is excessive compared to the maritime supply at Hamburg.

The Viceroy has sent a rescript to Peking to report their arrival but he has allowed them to appoint a security merchant and buy and sell in the interim. He told them that, having entered the river, they could not leave until the Emperor’s response arrived. Capt Krumstern did not understand the significance of this and applied for a Port Clearance certificate on completing loading. This produced a visit by two Chinese war junks to remind the Captain. The Hong merchants were so alarmed they stopped supplying provisions and water to the ships for two days.

The other foreigners have commended Krumstern to protest the Viceroy’s act in order to establish his ‘prickliness’ and get more consensual treatment in future. Krumstern has accordingly sent in a Protest referring to the potentially serious consequences for the relationship of the two countries, etc., etc., and again demanded his Grand Chop. The response ultimately received from Peking was to limit Russian trade to Kiakhta, the place established for it, and to permit no extension of that right to Canton. This Edict arrived at about the time the Russians left so no problems arose from it. The Viceroy and Hong merchants might have wished the Russians to trade at Canton but the other foreigners were not so keen.

The Chinese seemed dismayed by the good relations between the Russians and the English (they are allies in Europe now) and enquired if the Russians had found their way to Canton via England.

An overland embassy from St Petersburg to Peking set-out last year but its arrival at Peking has not yet been reported in Canton.[29]

Saturday 5th July 1806

There is a perception amongst the foreign merchants at Canton that the disordered state of society in southern China might produce a shortage of grain this year. It is expected that rice shipments will be made from Calcutta very soon.

Saturday 26th July 1806

A report from China says all rice imports received before October this year will be allowed in without any measurement fee of the ship. Several ship owners are said to have taken advantage of the incentive.

Saturday 30th August 1806

For sale – 1,600 cwt of sandalwood from the Company’s forest at Canara. To be sold in lots of 20 Candies each (588 lbs per Candy). Very suitable for the China trade. Payment in cash or Treasury Bills. Goods to be cleared from the Bunder warehouse within a month.

Saturday 27th September 1806

The Asia (Smith) left Canton on 2nd July and has just returned to Calcutta. Smith says the first Bengal rice ships got $5 per bag but it quickly dropped-off and rice was selling at $2 by the time of the Asia’s departure.

Saturday 11th October 1806

The Directors have shipped four wagons of silver dollars from London to Portsmouth in early May to be taken on the China ships for Canton trade next season. The Chinese merchants pay a premium on the Carolus dollar (called ‘olo head’ dollar in Canton) that makes the cost of freight worthwhile.

Saturday 20th December 1806

The Gillwell has arrived from China with the news that opium is selling slowly at $810 a chest and rice is firm at $3 a bag.

Saturday 20th December 1806

Early on 25th May 1806 the Travers was in the East India Dock at London when a sound was heard from the fore hatch and Ah Kum, the cook, was found decapitated within. Ah Kau confessed. He said Ah Kum had deceived him.

A sentence of death was quickly obtained from the Admiralty Court but execution was delayed while the file was seen by the Privy Council.

Ah Kau was hanged at the low-water mark and the body handed-over to his friends. Both men had joined the Travers in Calcutta.

Saturday 31st January 1807

The Russian Embassy to China has been coolly received at the Chinese frontier. Many obstacles were placed in their way to deter them from proceeding further and the Tsar ultimately ordered his Ambassador to return.

He says he has received sufficient marks of friendship from Peking to assure him of the goodwill between the countries. He also notes the friendly treatment his two ships received at Canton.

Saturday 14th February 1807

News from Canton:

  • The Fijian sandalwood that the Americans discovered and took to Canton, which adversely affected the Company’s own sales of Canara sandalwood, has turned out to be an inferior product and the Company’s Select Committee says its not much valued by the Chinese.
  • The famine in China has been ended by an excellent harvest in Autumn 1806. About 30 rice ships from Bengal sold their cargoes at satisfactory prices but late arrivals found no market and lost money.
  • Bombay cotton is in demand and maintaining its price but all China exports, except tea, are expensive.
  • The Select Committee at Canton has bought the small Bombay ship Prime to conduct surveys of the China coast. The overt purpose of the ship is to hunt pirates.

Saturday 21st February 1807

The Fortitude (Hughes) is taking a cargo of Chinese settlers to Trinidad. It called into St Helena for provisions. St Helena has lost all its cargo-workers – they could not be deterred from joining Popham’s South American expedition. Fortunately, the Fortitude’s emigrants willingly assisted in off-loading the ships in port.[30]

Saturday 7th March 1807

Duncan Forbes of M/S Hatton & Forbes has left China on the Jehangir and has just arrived at Penang. He reports that the Macau Governor has died.

Saturday 7th March 1807

James Drummond and J B Urmston, two of the Company’s Select Committee at Canton, arrived at Calcutta on 8th February.

Saturday 28th March 1807

George Baring and his wife are going from Bombay to Penang on the Lord Melville. He is the man managing the Company’s Agency business at Canton. The couple will travel on from there to China.[31]

Saturday 25th April 1807

On 21st April the Portuguese ship Carmo sailed from Calcutta for Macau with a cargo of 1,000 chests of opium, 600 bales of cotton, besides piecegoods and others.[32]

Saturday 16th May 1807

The Anna (Smith) has also arrived Calcutta from China. She reports a fight between English seamen and Chinese at Canton in early March in which a Chinese was killed. Trade was then stopped and the murderer was required to be surrendered for judgement.

Saturday 16th May 1807

The Fortitude (Hughes) arrived at Trinidad on 18th October 1806 with 191 settlers from southern China. Governor Hislop proclaimed that their arrival would introduce a new free race of farmers whose interests would naturally attach to the European population.

Hislop urged kindness and friendship be shown to the new arrivals in order that they will spread good news to their countrymen and promote further emigration.[33]

Saturday 27th June 1807

The Marchioness Wellesley (Gibson) left China on 25th March and has just arrived at Calcutta. The trade stoppage, for the killing of a Chinese by our seamen, was continuing at the time of the ship’s departure. The circumstances of this case are as follows:

A group of 30+ sailors from the Neptune Indiaman were allowed ashore unsupervised for rest and recreation at Canton early in March. They provoked a fight with some Chinese youths. The following day 2,000 – 3,000 Chinese assembled outside the Company’s factory wherein was Captain Buchanan of the Neptune. They called him out to explain himself and threw stones, etc., when he did not appear. It had been supposed they would soon disperse but they remained camped outside the Company’s factory overnight and this was inconvenient to the Company’s staff.

The Select accordingly armed a body of seamen with sticks and sent them out to disperse the crowd. The charge surprised the Chinese and many fell and were beaten by sailors or trampled by fleeing people. Having dispersed the crowd, the Company resumed its usual business.

The next day it was said that a Chinese in the crowd had died of injuries sustained in the sailors’ charge. He had been hit on the head and had been able to return to his home but had then deteriorated and died in the night.

The Company assessed this was insufficient to constitute murder under English law and supposed the death could be adjusted by a payment of compensation to the deceased’s next-of-kin. After a few days, before the Company’s compensation had been accepted, a formal demand was made by the Viceroy of the Two Kwong for the surrender of the responsible sailor. The Company said this was too difficult as the sailors had beaten people left and right and could not remember whom they had injured. Aware that the Ching penal code requires the innocent be distinguished from the guilty, the Company sought to establish that the guilty man could not be identified and thus avoid responsibility for the death.

The Viceroy was not so easily rebuffed. Mow Qua, the security merchant for the Neptune, was arrested and his property sealed by the Hoppo (effectively preventing his Hong from transacting business for the duration – the matter concerns the crew of a ship of those foreigners whose imports are stored in his warehouse). Mow Qua was required to sign an undertaking to the government to produce the guilty man within ten days. All other trade with the Company’s ships at Whampoa was then stopped pending for the surrender of the murderer.

The Company’s Select was supposed to dispatch the fleet to London by end March or early April at the latest. That is a more important consideration for them than Chinese law enforcement. They have proposed that they load all the other ships first and just leave the Neptune’s trade stopped until the matter is resolved. They have also requested that Roberts, one of the Select, be permitted to go to Peking to make representations there.

The Select Committee leads the British community at Canton and Britain has the bulk of Chinese export trade. If the Select makes concessions to the Chinese they may raise further demands until we have become like beggars imploring their trade. In that event, they will not respect us. Pursuing this train of thought, it is consequently being argued that our better course is to make a stand to assert the justice of uninterrupted trade. It was unanimously agreed that we cannot surrender a suspect as he will certainly be executed.

Saturday 8th August 1807

Mr Mrs Baring and brother George (the Company’s commission Agent buying / selling goods at Canton for merchants in India) have left Penang for Canton on 18th May. They are in a hurry due to the unsettled state of Canton trade since the death of a Chinese. The Margaret of Calcutta has also left for China with a ‘valuable cargo’ on board.

Saturday 29th August 1807

The Select Committee at Canton has continued to withhold the suspect involved in the fatal case. He has been identified as Edward Sheen and is being held in La Palacio at Macau (the Company’s summer palace). He admits to wounding a Chinese whilst drunk. The Select has obtained the Canton Government’s agreement to discharge Sheen’s offence by payment of a fine. They are said to await ratification of the agreement from Peking.

Saturday 29th August 1807

Excerpt from Barrow’s Travels:

In 1774 three brothers killed the King of Cochin China (the southern third of today’s Vietnam) and his family and installed themselves as rulers of the country. The King of Tong King (the rich farming land in the Red River delta in what is now North Vietnam) objected and the brothers attacked and dethroned him too. He fled to Peking and claimed the protection that was due to a vassal. A Chinese army was sent against Cochin China but was driven back, nearly to Canton. The officer in charge of this extensive defeat (he lost half his army) reported a series of spectacular victories to Peking whilst at the same time indicating the merit of the usurper and the worthlessness of the dethroned King of Tong King. He cogently developed this into a change of imperial policy whereby Peking supported the three brothers and one of them was accepted as the ruler of a combined Tongking and Cochin China. That was in 1779.

The Jesuits were already involved in Vietnam and had routinely patronised the ex-King and his family as their invariable route to influence. They were now out of power. The Catholics hid the Royal Family throughout the period they were being sought. They secured the help of several European ship captains whose vessels were more powerful than the Vietnamese ships. When the search for the ex-King was ended, the Catholics brought his family back to the capital where they were joyfully proclaimed by the people.

This attempt to restore the monarchy failed and the King was again forced to flee with 1,200 followers, including his Catholic advisers, to an island off the coast. He then found the court of Thailand was supportive and he helped that King to defeat the Burmese but the Thai King’s gratitude was brief.

Ultimately his Jesuit friends sought the help of the King Louis XVI of France and took to Paris one of the King’s sons as his representative. They arrived in 1787 and concluded a treaty whereby Louis XVI was to supply 20 warships, five French regiments and two regiments of local troops to act under the King of Cochin China’s control and recover his domains. A sum of silver was also paid to Cochin China to fund the attempt. In return France was to receive the sovereignty of the Bay and peninsula of Turon in perpetuity together with its nearby islands.

Before the Jesuits could start war they were thwarted by the French governor of Pondicherry who involved himself of his own volition. The priests continued to Cochin China, arriving in 1790 to find their friend the King again in possession of his capital. By 1793 the King had recovered a good part of his previous lands, including Turon. By 1800 he was strong enough to contemplate an invasion of Tong King.

Saturday 17th October 1807

18th September – The Governor General has ordered the Select Committee at Canton to issue no Bills on London this 1807 / 08 season, except to the Company’s ship commanders in respect of their own privileged trade. The country traders may have Bills on Bengal or Bombay only.[34]

Saturday 12th December 1807

A Chinese passenger, who has just arrived on the brig Tweed from Borneo has reported a fraud that the merchants in the states of the Rajahs of Sambas, Mompasia and Pontiana adopt of which we should be aware.

They use brass and silver filings to bulk-up the gold dust they offer in exchange for our goods. This could explain the losses some of our merchants have discovered on assay.

Saturday 30th January 1808

The Indiaman Albion (Robinson) caught fire at Whampoa when she was almost fully loaded for her return voyage. The fire was detected, the ship run aground and the cargo largely saved. It is hoped the smoke and water-damaged raw silks and piecegoods will fetch half price.

The Company had £1.3 millions in silver on board, proceeds of sale of Bills, which was being taken down river for trans-shipment to HMS Modeste for carriage to Calcutta. It was all saved. No private treasure was on board.[35]

Saturday 6th February 1808

On 20th November 1807 the Company’s Treasury at Macau was quoting 5/7d per Dollar for Bills on London at 730-days Sight and 5/4d per Dollar on one year Bills.

Saturday 5th March 1808

The Milford has arrived from China bringing Father Marcello de Gradisea from Macau to Madras

Saturday 12th March 1808

A Chinese junk Cham Chin has arrived at Calcutta under the command of a Portuguese pilot. Junks are common at Batavia, Malacca and Penang, but they seldom come as far west as British Indian ports for trade.

Saturday 7th May 1808

Advertisement – Last year the Bombay Insurance Society agreed with the merchants to a 5% rate on goods from Bombay to China (plus 1% for harbour risks of loading) and reminds customers that these rates apply to ships convoyed by H M frigates. If any insured ship separates from the convoy and sustains a loss, that Master will have to establish the separation was unintentional.

The Society suspects that the recent total loss of the Albion by fire at Whampoa was due to the inclusion of fireworks and oiled-paper umbrellas in her lading. ‘We expect members to avoid these predictably dangerous items,’ it says. If losses continue from this supposed cause, we will introduce a restriction on the cover.

Sgd John Forbes, Secretary. In English and Persian.[36]

Saturday 25th June 1808

For sale – 21 maunds of Surat sandalwood for sale by tender. Payment can be made here in Bombay or into our Treasury at Canton (in which latter case, interest of 8% per annum from date of delivery to your ship here to date of payment in Canton will be added).

Saturday 6th August 1808

Government Notice, Bombay Castle, 8th August:

Applications to resort to China and thence to London for the recovery of health (available to officers of staff rank) has increased so much that government has withdrawn the concession.

In future, voyages for health will be approved on the same terms as voyages to St Helena and the Cape.

Capt E S Clifton, who has permission for a voyage to China, has agreed to withdraw his application.

Saturday 27th August 1808

There has been a partial drought in south China and the rice harvest is expected to be small. The wholesale price has risen to $4.50 per bag.

Saturday 17th September 1808

Surrey Assizes – Daly v Rolles

The plaintiff is a young midshipman on HMS Lion and the defendant is the Captain. The frigate recently took the British embassy to China and then stood-by in the Pearl River estuary for its return. Whilst there, the plaintiff complains Rolles deposited him on Lintin Island[37] and left him to find his own way back to England.

Pearson, another midshipman, said on 5th – 6th May 1807 HMS Lion was anchored off Lintin awaiting the assembly of the departing fleet of East Indiamen. Capt Rolles returned on board from a visit to Canton and directed the 1st Lieutenant Peel to take Midshipman Daly and his chest to any ship in the convoy he wished. Daly had neither money nor friends on any of the ships and wished to remain on HMS Lion. Rolles insisted and dropped him on the beach at Lintin, an island then in the possession of pirates, according to the pleadings.

Charles Matson the purser gave evidence. He understood Daly had been turned-out of the ship for contemptuous behaviour to Rolles. He recalled Daly objected to the entry Rolles made in his (Daly’s) Discharge Book because it named Lintin as the place of discharge. Thomas Haly, the Master at Arms heard Daly say he did not know what he had done to be turned-out and Rolles replied ‘you have said enough and out the ship you must go’. Duncan Murphy, Master of HMS Lion, heard Rolles tell Daly his conduct was such he could not remain on board. He heard Daly say he had no money or friends in China and Rolles reply that he could not stay on board.

Lt James Peel gave evidence for Rolles. In mid March he went onto the quarter deck and heard Daly speak loudly to Lt Eaton, the watch officer. Peel ordered Daly to be silent. Eaton told Peel in explanation that Daly had been off-deck during his duty time and had been insolent when reprimanded. Daly continually tried to speak even though ordered three times to be silent. Then Daly questioned whether the two lieutenants were gentlemen. Both lieutenants understood that as a challenge to their honour. That was the main offence.

On another occasion Daly was ordered to take a boat ashore for provisions but he was slow to respond and declined to walk faster when ordered to do so.

Again, towards the end of April, Peel ordered Daly to keep watch for a boat that would come from the shore at night, but it was Peel himself who saw the boat first, evidencing that Daly was not attending to his duty.

On that occasion Peel reported Daly to Lt Thomas Graham, the watch officer, who had him arrested until Rolles should return to the ship which event occurred on 1st May.

Graham said Daly transferred to the frigate from HMS Greyhound when HMS Lion was at Penang and he discovered very quickly that he was a disrespectful junior officer.

Midshipman Todd took Daly in a boat to the beach at Lintin. He warned Daly he should get aboard one of the merchant ships or he would be robbed or murdered.

Capt Richardson of the Albion East Indiaman said Daly came aboard his ship from the Arniston East Indiaman after spending a night on Lintin. He agreed to carry him back to England. His messing cost £30 – £60 and he used the boatswain’s cabin which rented for £85 for the voyage. He said that whilst the East India fleet is at Lintin he thought there was no danger from pirates.

The Judge in his summing-up, said Daly’s offensive language to the officers was a crime for which the punishment is death. His other acts were disrespectful. He was guilty of acts that might foreseeably bring about his court martial. On the other hand Rolles had put him ashore alone on an island. The jury awarded Daly £450 damages which will largely go to repaying the costs of his passage home.[38]

Saturday 24th September 1808

In consideration of his assistance with the Canton Government in the recent case in which a Chinese was killed by an Englishman (the Thomas Sheen case), the Directors have made Sir George Staunton their Chinese Interpreter on a handsome salary. This is the second time Staunton has saved an Englishman from Chinese law.

Saturday 8th October 1808

The country ship Margaret (Kitson) has arrived at Calcutta from Canton and reports sale prices for cotton there are nominal at 13 Taels 5 mace per picul but no purchasers and some 24,000 bales in stock.

There is also 2,000 chests of opium on hand offered at $1,200 but, with this year’s crop being dispatched from India, that price is certain to fall.

Saturday 5th November 1808

The Commodore of the Company’s naval service has given a dinner to Drummond, President of the Select, at the London Tavern in recognition of the help he has habitually given ship owners in China.

Saturday 10th December 1808

The country ship Canton (Falconer) arrived at Calcutta from China on 7th November. Between mid-June and 18th August (two months) some 400 chests of opium were sold in China for an average $1,000 each. Remaining stock is about 3,500 chests.

Bombay cotton was selling at that time at 13 Taels the bale; Bengal cotton was not selling but the asking price was 12 – 12½ Taels.

Saturday 31st December 1808

In March 1808 the Discovery left Macau for the Paracels. Here is a report of the voyage:

On 16th March we arrived at the Amphitrite Islands (Paracels) and saw a coconut tree on the western-most island. These islands are made of white sand and coral and are covered with low brush. They are reminiscent of some Red Sea islands, particularly the Asakows. A few islands, like Lincoln’s Island, afford water sufficient for a small ship.

On the eastern-most Paracels we saw a huge Chinese junk stranded on the coral and many people waving to us from the nearby sands. We approached to ½ mile in the late afternoon but the wind got-up and we moved away for the night. Next morning we moved round to leeward of them. The wind continued strong. We anchored in 15 fathoms and sent our boats ashore. The people were starving and fought to get on the boats. By 20th March we had them all on board (360 in the Discovery and 200 in the Antelope). They had been stranded 3-4 days before we arrived and had only dried fruit to eat and no water. About 25 of them had already left the island in a tank and it later transpired that 14 survived that desperate voyage to Turon (a port in Cochin China at the mouths of the Mekong). We discovered this because the captain postponed our survey in order to land all these people at Turon first and we met up with the first party when we arrived there. Its a port on the coast of Cochin China about 120 miles from the Amphitrites.

About 8 miles east of the Paracels is Woody Island which has thick vegetation and some Chinese fishermen build and occupy temporary huts there whilst they gather beche-de-mer. When we returned from Turon we hired one of the Chinese on Woody Island as a pilot. He had been visiting the area for 25 years. He certainly knew his way around and accurately described the Comet and Intrepid (the two India ships sent to survey the Paracels that had been lost) which he said had called at the islands for water.

There are vast flocks of seabirds on these islands that do not fear man. We caught a great many and the gulls are good eating.

On 4th July we returned to Macau and anchored in Taipa Roads.

Saturday 14th January 1809

The Surat Castle arrived at Calcutta from China on 5th November followed by the Macalister on 15th November. They left China before trade was stopped and report there are three American ships in the river which have remained there a long time, apparently awaiting owner’s instructions in respect of Jefferson’s embargo.[39]

Saturday 4th February 1809

An American ship consigned to Mr Wilcocks, the China trader, has been captured by pirates off Macau. She was laden with furs and $300,000 in silver. The Americans complained to the Canton provincial government which told them the incident occurred outside their jurisdiction. At that time there were four American ships at Whampoa and no ships of another nationality in port except British.[40]

Saturday 25th February 1809

Advertisement – An invitation for subscriptions for an English translation of the moral axioms of Confucius with a commentary by the Chinese philosopher ‘Chee Hee’. Translator Joshua Marshman and his son (assisted by Johannes Lassar).

Marshman and his two sons and his other pupils have been studying Chinese for the last two years. In the language examinations at Serampore on 10th February 1808 before the Revs David Brown and W Carey, Marshman recited the 8,000 characters of Volume One of the Axioms of Confucius to the satisfaction of the examiners. This proposed publication will be in two volumes each of 600 pages at 64 Rupees per volume.

If the subscription is successful, it will be followed by a translation of the Imperial Dictionary of Hong Hee (the Kang Hsi Emperor) in 32 volumes. This dictionary is reputed to contain every Chinese character.

Saturday 18th March 1809

Mrs Baring and her children, together with George Baring, the Company’s Commission Agent in China, have arrived at Calcutta from Macau in the Portuguese ship Ouvidor Pereira.

Saturday 18th March 1809

During Admiral Drury’s recent confrontation with the Canton Government he wished to force the Viceroy to interview him and in early November ordered the frigates HMS Phaeton and HMS Dedaigneuse up to Whampoa and the ship-of-the-line HMS Russell (74) up to Second Bar. In mid-November he led all the boats of the Company’s ships and the country ships, strongly manned and armed, up to Canton where he remained two days having frequent meetings with high officials but was denied access to the Viceroy. He was nevertheless treated with respect. He then returned to the Whampoa anchorage.

The Chinese assembled a body of troops at Canton and once Drury had gone, moored a number of warboats, filled with soldiers, across the river 2-3 miles below Canton. These defensive works caused some apprehension for the safety of the merchants resident in the Canton factories and on 21st November Drury ordered all British subjects in Canton to quit with their property within 48 hours. The merchants then withdrew to the shipping at Whampoa bringing $1 million of their property. The Chinese officials checked them out of the factories and forbad them to remove any Chinese products or sycee. They could only take foreign silver coins away with them.

On 28th November Drury proposed to go to Canton with the declared purpose of collecting a quantity of spirits from the factories, where the Company maintains a stock, but more likely to check the response of the Chinese to such a move. It was for this expedition that the British warships and the merchant shipping each provided two boats carrying cannonades, all fully armed and manned. The fleet of boats left Whampoa on the morning of 28th November and on arriving at the line of warjunks across the river came under fire of grape and round shot from the warjunks and a small fort at the riverside. The Admiral called his flotilla to stop and alone continued with a Portuguese priest as interpreter. He approached what appeared to be the biggest warjunk and the interpreter notified in Chinese the peaceful intentions of the British armed party. While he was speaking the boat was fired upon from one of the junks. Drury tried repeatedly to communicate but was always met with gunfire whenever the priest stood up. The Admiral then returned to Whampoa with his boats.

On 10th December the British troops were removed from Macau whereafter the Chinese permitted trade to resume. During the trade stoppage the merchants at Canton and Macau and the shipping at Whampoa were all supplied with water and provisions by their compradors but it was delivered daily and was adequate for that day only. No reserves could be accumulated. We also had the inconvenience of running our own errands as the servants were formally withdrawn, although most of them remained to help us, but dared not go out-of-doors.

The launch of HMS Lion was attacked outside the Bocca Tigris by several Chinese armed boats. The launch crew fired upon the attackers and repelled them causing a loss of 25 men. The Chinese government later denied knowledge of the incident and attributed it to pirates who infest the coast.

Saturday 25th March 1809

Our attempted occupation of Macau has caused great financial losses for people involved in the China trade. Bombay merchants alone estimate their losses from the fall in the market at 1 million Rupees. The detention of the ships is extra. Some Hong merchants were delayed in arranging their speculations and have also lost considerably.

We have received a letter from a merchant at Canton dated 15th January which says the cotton cargo of the Hope sold at 13.4 Taels per picul as the Hong merchant deducted 2 Mace from the price he was offered. Other cargoes have been marked down even more and some cotton sold at 12 Taels after the market re-opened. Bengal cotton has lost its former reputation as a result of several bales being received poorly cleaned (containing seeds and bits of husk). Once the Chinese become prejudiced against an article it takes ages to recover their business – Bengal cotton may not see 13 Taels again for years. Opium is declining and selling slowly at $950 per chest. At Penang a large shipment went for $740.

Saturday 25th March 1809

The new Portuguese governor of Macau was accused by the Canton officials of having permitted Drury’s British troops to land. Drury told them the British had come to defend China against the French “who were at war with the whole world”. The Chinese replied that the disputes of France, England and Portugal were of no concern to China and if Macau was threatened, China would provide for its protection.

Saturday 1st April 1809

The Portuguese priest Rodrigo, who interpreted for Drury and President Robarts of the Select in the recent transactions at Canton, incurred the displeasure of the Canton officials.

Not long ago he travelled to Peking without permission and resided there for some time before returning to Macau. This visit later caused the Canton officials to be criticised by Peking, hence their initial enmity towards Rodrigo.

It is also reported that when Drury’s fleet of boats approached the Chinese line of warjunks across the river, Rodrigo stood-up in the boat, cowl in hand, and cheered with three loud huzzahs as though inciting the seamen to attack.

After Drury withdrew his troops and left China, the Chinese officials at Macau reasserted their control and posted Edicts throughout the town offering rewards for the capture of English soldiers. Shortly afterwards Rodrigo made a visit across the land frontier of Macau into China (some say he was inveigled into crossing) and was arrested and sent to Canton for enquiries.

The Portuguese Governor responded to this news by moving a Portuguese frigate and an armed brig close to two Chinese forts overlooking the enclave while a body of Portuguese troops were prepared to march across the frontier to occupy the two forts.

Robarts, the President of the Select, co-ordinated with the Governor and concurrently called a trade stoppage by the British. After these preparations, a demand was sent-in for the immediate release of Rodrigo unharmed or the two forts would be invested and occupied and the garrisons held as ransom for Rodrigo.

Fortunately the threat was sufficient to secure Rodrigo’s release. This event is being held up as an example of how to deal with Chinese officials. Moderation has its bounds and a sacrifice of principle to temporary convenience is seldom a palliative in China.

Saturday 22nd April 1809

Our recent creation of and alliance with the new junta as the government of Spain has ensured that Manila is open to British Indian commerce.

Our piecegoods are in demand but sales must be completed before October or November. At about that time the annual treasure ship from Acapulco arrives and all Manila capital is absorbed in preparations for loading local produce on it.

Saturday 3rd June 1809

Arrivals at Calcutta from China say on 5th March the Viceroy and some of his high officers were under investigation by Peking for their actions concerning Drury’s occupation of Macau. They are said to have been too mild.

Bengal cotton is unsellable on account of both the over-supply and the doubtful quality for the last 2-3 years. The last sales of Bengal were at 11-12 Taels per picul. The Hong merchants have some 70,000 bales of Bengal and Bombay cotton in stock and can take no more.

Opium is satisfactory and the stock is small pending arrival of the new crop from this January’s Calcutta sales – Patna is selling at $1,050 and Benares $1,000. A great difficulty in China trade is the scarcity of silver which the Americans are no longer bringing due to their embargo.

Saturday 1st July 1809

Advertisement, 20th June 1809 – The Company is offering the country trade 500-600 tons of space on the China ships Neptune, True Briton, Scaleby Castle and Cumberland in equal proportions on each ship. Pay freight in Bombay on loading or to the Select at Canton within 30 days of arrival.

Saturday 29th July 1809

The Directors have sent 30 copies of a chart of the Pearl River Estuary based on surveys recently done by the Company’s cruisers whilst on the China station.

The chart shows the harbours and the channel from Lintin to the Bocca Tigris.

The chart, with its attached plans and memoir, are permitted for sale to Country captains at 25 Bombay Rupees per copy.

Saturday 26th August 1809

The investigation in London into sale of jobs in India has identified one of the Company’s Directors, George Woodford Thellusson MP, as the man who gave three writerships to his relative J Alex Woodford (known as the Emperor) which were sold for totally £10,175. Cadetships are also sold but they are cheaper – Bengal cadetships are worth £100+ whereas the same job in Madras (where the army is in rebellion over money) costs £250.

It appears the Royal Duke of Clarence (of the House of Brunswick) is a dabbler in the market for Indian cadetships through his chaplain Rev Lloyd. It is apparent that the cadetships, if not the writerships, are transferable and exchangeable. There are also sales of jobs on the medical establishment and for lawyers. A market is made in them by some City brokers.

The Company has long been aware of abuses in the patronage of jobs in India. After the last Charter renewal in 1793 it investigated sales of jobs in 1798 and introduced a new oath for Directors whereby each swore not to sell jobs. On recommending an applicant, the Director further swears that he has not been bribed. Directors’ oaths seem to be ineffective. More useful would be the Company Bye-law that levies a fine of twice the sale price of a job but that has yet to be invoked.[41]

Saturday 16th September 1809

The Captain, Chief Officer and Purser of the Marquis of Ely have been suspended from duty and replaced. The Indiaman was searched by Customs at Gravesend in April before departure for Whampoa and 100 guns were found in the privileged tonnage. The Marquis of Ely is part of the China direct fleet.

Saturday 30th December 1809

A Prices Current of late September for China is published:

  • Chinese imports – amongst Bombay goods, Indian cotton is slow at 11 Taels per bale; sharks’ fins, sandalwood and ivory are firm; Patna $1,250, Benares $1,150 each per chest, Malwa no demand.
  • Chinese exports – raw silk, silk cloth, nankeens, tutenague and mercury (metals must be smuggled out) at usual market rate; teas are not yet available; pure gold $23 per Tael, pure silver $101 per 100 Taels, sycee bar, vermilion at market rate, etc.[42]

In the 1809/10 season 10 Bombay ships, 5 Bengal ships, 4 Penang ships, 9 Company ships and 17 American ships arrived at Whampoa for trade.

Saturday 30th December 1809

Pirates in the Pearl estuary have captured a boat of the Marquis of Ely and are holding its officer and eight men for ransom. $30,000 has been demanded for their release. This is the Indiaman that was taking 100 guns to Canton in an officer’s privileged tonnage but was inspected at London prior to sailing and the arms offloaded.

Saturday 30th December 1809

First newspaper report of Admiral Drury’s ‘invasion of Macau’:

China, 5th December – All trade is held up by the Select Committee’s requirement that its complaint be referred to the Emperor. They objected to the Viceroy stopping trade when Drury occupied Macau and thought a reference to the Emperor would embarrass the Canton officials into reversing their decision. Contrarily, the officers appear unconcerned. As a result of the complaint, ships are welcomed at Whampoa but cannot open hatches until the Emperor’s reply arrives. The Select has since asked the Viceroy to reopen trade.[43]

Meanwhile American trade is continuing briskly and some British goods are getting through via this medium. 12.3 Taels is paid for Bengal cotton and 11 Taels for Bombay – sales are up slightly. The entire stock of opium has been sold to the principal merchant of Macau (Judge Arriaga, the second official in the colonial hierarchy) and prices have risen to those shown in the Prices Current. Pirates are active and the Viceroy has chartered the Penang country ship Mercury (Williams) to cruise against them commencing 25th September. He has fitted out this ship at Whampoa as a warship but it has only captured one junk so far. The Mercury is escorted by sixty war-junks. Once this easily-recognisable fleet appears the pirates disappear into the myriad waterways of the delta. They have been astonishingly forward in their depredations on all the villages near the coast or waterways. Three senior Chinese officials are on the Mercury with Williams.

A Chinese agent at Canton has provided some information. He says a new Viceroy Pang has arrived and visited Macau where he gave a strip of silver to every Portuguese soldier for their ‘defeat’ of the English invaders. The Governor of Canton and Hoppo are in disgrace for permitting the invasion and the Governor is particularly vilified for his willing concessions to the English. He is said to be under house arrest.

Two of the linguists have been assigned by the new Viceroy to remain at Macau and report all new arrivals of foreign ships. Thereafter the Baring, Cumbrian and Troubridge arrived and were all detained at Macau for many days until a general permission for country ships to enter the river was obtained.

The Hong merchants are attempting a combination which may relate to the Macau Judge’s monopolisation of the opium supply. They say Security Merchants will be appointed to incoming ships by rotation. That merchant will buy all the ship’s cargo at a price determined by the Consoo before the merchant is selected. The export cargo likewise is to be bought from the same Security Merchant. This applies to all cargo (including privileged tonnage) and water and provisions. The Hongs want payment for their exports, two thirds in goods and one third in cash and if cash is unavailable they expect four month’s credit. The new system commenced with the three named country ships. The prices available were generally 10% below the open market which has consequently fallen to the new low Consoo level. President Roberts has been unable to effect a change and the ship masters have entered a joint Protest. After several weeks of delay, the Hongs agreed to abandon their attempted monopoly.

The Emperor’s response to the Company’s complaint then arrived. It instructs the new Viceroy to obtain a written explanation from Roberts upon receipt of which, assuming it is satisfactory, British trade may be reopened. Our negotiating position has been undermined by the Chinese discovery that some foreigners are supplying the pirates with goods.[44] Company cotton which obtained 14½ Taels last year is now under 13 and Mow Qua, who bought much of it, has lost $400,000 on paper while How Qua, who bought most of the balance, has lost $200,000.[45] This year’s Bombay cotton is selling for an average 11 Taels.

The Hong merchants overall are in difficulties – they cannot sell-out the English goods while the proscription on our trade continues and their warehouses are full of our goods. Mow Qua is trying to resign but the new Viceroy will not permit it. Another Hong merchant who retired a few year’s ago was pressed to rejoin and only averted that calamity by an immense bribe, said to have been 200,000 Taels. In April Fon Qua failed owing $325,000 mainly to Bombay merchants. A complaint was sent in to the officials who routinely arrested him and prospects of repayment have consequently lowered. No settlement arrangements are yet known.

The only bright ray of sunshine is the return of the Americans after the repeal of their legislated trade embargo. The Chinese are delighted. They have brought much silver which should restore liquidity and facilitate trade.

Saturday 27th January 1810

The present King of Nepal has been expanding his lands for many years. He occupies all the valleys on the lower slopes of the Himalayas and has in the last few years extended his domains as far as Srinegar in the west giving him a long frontier north of Sikh domains (with which people he has had several fights) all the way to Afghanistan.

It now seems he may have been probing into Tibetan lands as well, as a Chinese army of some 16,000 men has reportedly arrived from Shigatse on his north eastern frontier. Tibet is protected as a vassal of China and an Amban resides in Lhasa.[46]

Saturday 7th April 1810

We have killed another Chinese and trade at Canton is stopped again. A seamen from the Royal Charlotte is accused of the killing in a fight. The Select arranged an examination of the accused and became convinced of his innocence. They accordingly declined to surrender him to the Chinese Magistrate. All the English merchants are blaming an American whilst all the Chinese are satisfied it was the Englishman. They demand he be surrendered in accordance with the Ching legal principle of ‘a life for a life’.

The Bombay ships Henchman, Cornwallis and Byramgore were allowed to clear port at the application of their Chinese security merchant and they have brought the news back. The Company’s fleet was almost loaded and would have been ready for sea by 4th February but must now be delayed.

It is also reported that another Hong merchant, Gnew Qua has defaulted with debts of $2 millions of which $700,000 is for the Company’s account. It may relate to the unexpected absence of American silver in the market last season due to the British Order-in-Council against neutral shipping.

Cotton has dropped to 12 Taels 2 Mace and there is 60,000 bales in stock.

Action against the pirates seems to have stopped their depredations. They have agreed peace terms with the Canton government and a fleet of 300 pirate ships was seen at end February sailing to Chuen Pi to negotiate terms.

Saturday 28th April 1810

Penang, 17th March – Reports from China say trade is still stopped over the latest affray which caused the death of another Chinese. It is hoped that the Company’s fleet will be released by 1st March and HMS St Albans is waiting outside to convoy them. All the country ships have been detained in the river for a month now.

On 19th January the Olivia was at anchor in Macau roads, and two comprador boats had just delivered full loads of fruit and vegetables. At about noon three similar boats were seen pulling towards the Olivia. One with over 20 oars came directly to the Olivia. There was only a sentinel and a sea-cunny (an Indian Coxswain) on the Olivia’s deck. The crew was ordered to quarters and, seeing this, the rowing boat crew rested on its oars. It could then be seen to be full of armed men. It hailed us saying it was a comprador boat but we told them to ‘go away’ and tried to keep our guns bearing on them. They rowed around the ship at a cable’s length and a man could be seen using a telescope to observe us minutely.

At that moment three junks came out of the Taipa and the pirates immediately left us to give chase. We saw them capture the junks and move off to the East with their prizes.

The Sir Edward Pellow (Stevens) has arrived Penang from China which she left on 2nd March. She reports the pirates have assembled a fleet of over 300 junks, some very big, and the Select say this is the real reason for the detention of foreign shipping in the river. An American named Cox has arrived on Sir Edward Pellow.

Saturday 5th May 1810

The latest murder in Canton involves a Chinese found in mid-January at the mouth of Hog Lane within the foreign factories. He had been stabbed in the side with a knife, reportedly in a scuffle with some Europeans the previous night. The foreign merchants left the body there, adopting an attitude of non-involvement. It is occasionally the case in winter that Cantonese die on the streets from a combination of malnourishment and chill – this chap was treated in that way.

The Hongs reported the death to the Canton Provincial Government and an enquiry commenced that identified English sailors as the people involved in the scuffle. It was traced by the officials to a party of sailors from the St Albans (Austin). The captain had already sailed down river to Chuen Pi to join his ship and the Select had to recall him to attend the investigation. A conference was held in the factories wherein the officials said they had (undisclosed) evidence that the murderer was an Englishman.

The Select have contrarily blamed an American. The Viceroy, to cover both possibilities, had required the Hoppo to withhold the Grand Chop from all American and British ships. This routinely meant an instruction to the Bocca Tigris forts to fire on any foreign ship attempting to leave the river – there is a history of escapes. The Select took the position that the officials should produce their evidence or allow the shipping to clear port and, being commercial men, they threatened to charge the officials for demurrage if the evidence was not instantly produced. This caused a second meeting at which two witnesses were produced. The officials proposed to interview the two jointly but the Select objected and after some discussion it was agreed to debrief them separately.

The first witness said the deceased was a pimp but had failed to produce a girl to the Indiaman sailor after payment. The English sailor had become enraged and stabbed the man. The witness identified the sailor as English from the language he spoke. It was then very dark at Hog Lane and he could not see the sailor clearly to identify either his face or clothing. The group of foreigners then walked away and witness followed them to Imperial Hong. That Hong contained the residences of several Indiamen captains and some American traders. He was unable to pursue the group inside.

The second witness said nearly the same except he recalled the moonlight was sufficient and he could see the long queues and glazed hats of the participants in the struggle. He added that he could not distinguish an Englishman from an American and neither could he identify the culprit.

On this revelation, the Select applied for Port Clearances for their fleet unless the Chinese officials could adduce better evidence of the murder being done by an Englishman.

Nothing happened until 25th February. Other trade continued as usual. The merchants who had come up to Canton for trade left to rejoin their ships and between 18th – 20th February the American and country ships all received their Grand Chops and departed. The Select Committee supposes their fleet would similarly be permitted to depart at the time fixed for convoy (1st March).

Meanwhile piracy continues unopposed in the estuary. One of the pirate fleets, led by a woman, had just beaten off an attack by a squadron of government warjunks supported by five Portuguese ships. No English ship has been attacked for some time.

Another fleet (about 100 junks) under Cheung Po Chai had sailed up to Chuen Pi just before the Lady Barlow sailed and commenced a negotiation with the Canton government for their rehabilitation. The Viceroy came down to Chuen Pi to supervise but refused a meeting with Cheung Po Chai which caused that pirate to call-off the discussions. Only very few of the pirate junks accepted the terms on offer from the Viceroy. During this discussion the pirate fleet was anchored port and starboard of the St Albans and about one mile apart. The St Albans will be carrying a large shipment of silver for Madras. When negotiations collapsed, the Viceroy returned to Canton.

During Capt Austin’s stay in the factories, he discussed with officials the most effective way of equipping the Chinese warjunks to deal with the pirates. The government fleet is numerous and expensive and its costs are paid by the Hong merchants who are the people trying to involve foreign captains in effective measures.[47]

Saturday 12th May 1810

Bombay Government Notice – Lt Davis Davies and Wm Pratt of the European Regiment who have been on leave in China for their health have the permission of the Select Committee at Canton to proceed to Europe and the Governor-in-Council confirms that permission.

Saturday 2nd June 1810

Letter from the Agent for the Sulimany at Canton, 12th March:

The Select positively refused to surrender the man wanted in the fatal affray at Hog Lane. The Viceroy was asked instead to permit an investigation to be carried out in London when the ship returned there and he may agree as he has serious problems with the pirates.

When Cheung Po Chai moored his pirate fleet around the St Albans, the government warjunks were under the Bocca Tigris guns and some Portuguese ships were south of the St Albans. The Viceroy gave precedence to this piracy matter and said he would settle the matter of our Grand Chops (Clearance Certificates) once it was concluded.

The Select chose to keep on pressing him and ordered the captains to drop down to 2nd bar. Consequently, our armed fleet of Indiamen was approaching the Bocca Tigris down river as the negotiations with Cheung Po Chai at the river mouth continued. This pressure on the Viceroy was increased when the pirate chief demanded the cession of Lintin as a base for his supporters. It seems the Select is helping the pirates to get better terms by harassing the Viceroy.

At about the same time some Lascars from the ship Ann arrived in Canton. That ship is registered to Bombay and disappeared on a voyage from Timor to Canton in 1807 – now the crew is turning up at Canton. It is said some Chiu Chow pirates responded to the Fukien Governor’s amnesty proposal and surrendered at Amoy. Amongst their crews were these Lascars who were captured on the Fukien / Kwangtung coast. Many of them were killed and only those who agreed to join the pirates survived. They have now been brought to Canton.

I heard this from President Roberts who got it from a Linguist.[48]

Saturday 30th June 1810

The Bheemoolah (Patrick) has arrived at Calcutta from China on 5th June. She reports several American ships have arrived there (the ships that slipped out of New England ports when it appeared the Federal embargo would end) and imports of treasure of $1.5 – 1.8 millions have been made into Canton. This has revived sales of cotton and opium.

Saturday 14th July 1810

The Bheemoolah has arrived Bombay from China and Calcutta. She brings letters from Macau:

One dated 11th April says there was not a single ship at Whampoa, the first time for many years. The resident merchants hope there will be no arrivals for 3 – 4 months to allow them to sell-off the great stocks of cotton and opium they have accumulated. The arrival of a ship always affects the market price for its cargo and these fluctuations deter Chinese buyers when prices are high. Opium is selling at $1,090 – $1,100 a chest but sales are slow as it is known in the market that the Portsea is en route with a cargo of new opium.

The Viceroy has proclaimed an invitation to all trading nations to bring rice to Canton for sale and copies have been sent to Bengal. It indicates the likely price China will pay at the time of its publication but does not guarantee that price.

The Viceroy has agreed terms with the chiefs of the two principal pirates for an end to their depredations. The terms are not quite honourable to the provincial government but they allow the Viceroy to concentrate his efforts against the remaining pirates.

The Portuguese in Macau became so concerned for their safety that they sent a requisition to the Governor of Manila for troop reinforcements (Spain and Portugal are temporarily united by British rule of Iberia). The Spanish force arrived at Macau on the Diana on 10th March but the Viceroy’s treaty with the main pirates is expected to pre-empt Macau’s need of them.

Saturday 22nd September 1810

A letter from the Select Committee at Canton to the Governor of Bombay dated 7th June 1810 concludes with:

“The principal body of pirates has agreed with the Viceroy to forsake their livelihood in return for pardon and government employment.[49] Another great group of pirates remains active on the coast to the west and ship masters should remain cautious.”

Saturday 22nd September 1810

The Mornington has arrived at Calcutta from China. Bengal and Bombay cotton are selling at 13+ Taels per picul; opium is $1,080 per chest but will decline once the Portuguese ships arrive at Macau from Calcutta (they bring consignments of Patna and Benares). Few Americans have arrived Whampoa in the last months and their presence is again needed to restore liquidity to the market.

The Fair American has also arrived Calcutta direct from Baltimore which she left 5th May at which time the maritime dispute with England and France continued.

Saturday 29th September 1810

We have received a letter from Macau reporting the recent situation there. It says Canton Provincial Government officials frankly admit their inability to deal with the pirates. The pirate fleet had grown to 400 warjunks each armed with 12+ guns and manned by 50 – 200 men. They are not merely predating on the coast but are routinely entering the inland waterways and controlling the activities of all the floating population as well as villagers who live near the coasts and waterways.

Everyone is assessed a contribution to pay and non-payment or opposition result in attack and often death and destruction. Recalcitrant villages have been barbarously attacked and men, women and children promiscuously slaughtered.

The belated government response has been to raise a fleet of 40 warjunks with 14+ guns each and send it against the pirates. In its first engagement it was heavily outnumbered, 28 government boats surrendered and the rest fled. This initiative merely increased the number of ships and guns in the pirate fleet. The ubiquitous success of the pirates has induced all the young coastal people to join them. Being on the winning side offers a way to preserve their lives. They have been able to take one American schooner and have attacked other foreign ships but so far without further success.

The communications that we have established by boat between Canton and Macau are disrupted by the pirates. As the area under piratical control increased, it approached nearer and nearer to Canton. Eventually the pirate chiefs declared an intention of evicting the Ching and restoring the Ming. This politicisation of the anarchy induced the Viceroy to contract with the Governor of Macau for the eradication of piracy.

The agreement, dated 23rd November 1809, nominates three Chinese officials and two Macanese to supervise the effort. The Macau men are Miguel de Arriaga Brum de Silveira, the Judge, and Jose Joaquim de Barros, the Procurator. It specifies the immediate creation of a coast guard of 6 Portuguese ships, armed and manned by the Portuguese, which will sail with the government fleet. They will cruise the estuary and around Heung Shan[50] for 6 months and prevent pirates from entering the inland waterways. The Viceroy will pay 80,000 Taels for this Portuguese service. All prizes taken by the combined force will be equally shared between the Portuguese and Chinese fleets. When the pirates have been removed, the ancient privileges of the Portuguese in Macau will be restored.

On signing this agreement Judge Arriaga had no ships, arms or men but in five days he had chartered six ships, equipped them with 118 cannon and employed 730 men as crews. The ships are Inconquistavel (26), Palla (18), Indiana (24), Bellisario (18), Sr Miguel (16) and the brig Princess Carlotta (16). All the fleet is deficient of naval stores and shot which the Select has agreed to provide from the Company’s fleet of Indiamen on the basis of the treaties of friendship done between Portugal and England.

This flotilla joined 60 government warjunks and commenced cruising. Generally the pirates fled on the approach of the combined fleet but on a few occasions they were cornered and obliged to stand and fight and on each of those occasions, the pirates were defeated.

One of the pirate chiefs, Cheung Po Chai, was induced by the government offer to negotiate in January and his 100 junks and 8,000 men have agreed terms of surrender. He is now employed by the Chinese Navy doing coastguard duty in Fukien and has added the honorific Qua to his name.

In February a second negotiation was commenced with some other pirate chiefs but this failed. The Portuguese fleet was then again sent against those pirates and many of their boats were trapped in the waterways and had to be abandoned. On 12th April the Portuguese managed to trap a large number of pirate ships under the pirate chief Ah Juo Chai and obliged him to treat for surrender.

The Viceroy came down to Heung Shan and met Judge Arriaga who was allowed to mediate the settlement. After 3 days an agreement was made. A general amnesty for their past depredations has been given. In return 270 pirate junks, 16,000 men, 5,000 women and 1,200 pieces of ordnance have been surrendered to the Viceroy.

Now, for the first time in 20 years, piracy on the Canton coast is under control. The Portuguese fleet returned to Macau on 21st April and entered the harbour to the acclamation of most of the populace. Salutes were fired from the ships and forts, the church bells were rung and a Te Deum was sung in thanksgiving.

Saturday 20th October 1810

The Auspicious has arrived at Calcutta from China and Malacca. She left Macau on 4th July and reports that at departure opium was nominal at $1,040 a chest with no demand. The late accommodation by the Viceroy with the pirates had been expected to stimulate opium distribution and increase demand but no effect is yet discernible.[51] Bengal cotton is selling slowly at 13+ Taels. The problem is silver – no Americans have yet arrived.

Saturday 10th November 1810

H Brown, the new President of the Company’s Select Committee at Macau, Sir George Staunton and the writer Millet passed through Penang in September on their way to take-up their new duties in China.

Saturday 8th December 1810

Advertisement – Vol 1 of the Works of Confucius, translated by J Marshman, has just been published at Calcutta. Price 64 Sicca Rupees. The preface includes a biography of the sage and an account of the most esteemed Chinese philosophical works. There is also a dissertation on the Chinese language with tables of the elementary written characters and all the words of the oral language.

Available from Forbes & Co, Bombay.[52]

Saturday 15th December 1810

A letter from Macau dated mid-October says Roberts and the Select circulated a letter to all ship captains in Taipa roads requiring the sale and delivery of cargo be suspended until the Viceroy returned to Canton. He had gone to the west on some matter relating to the negotiations with the pirates who had since become peaceful in the area of the Pearl estuary and delta.

The Select is continuing its own negotiation with the Viceroy concerning terms of trade following the occasional stoppages that occur every time a British seaman kills a Chinese. Roberts wishes to withhold foreign goods as a negotiating tactic. Effectively, he is copying the Viceroy in stopping trade.

The resident foreign mercantile agents went to Whampoa in late July but by 13th August the Viceroy had still not returned to Canton and the season was advancing. Country traders were disappointed by the delay in disposing of their cotton. Roberts was persuaded to permit trade to proceed and they started selling and delivering cargo on 18th August. It was finished about 3rd September.

The former pirates have been taken into government service and many of their boats are now in the Macau inner harbour. The Viceroy returned to Canton in early September and a deputation of the four main Hong merchants and some officials went to Macau to interview with Roberts at La Palacio. They returned to Canton after a few days for instructions and then went back to Roberts for further discussions. Roberts and Elphinstone then went to Canton with Capt George Elliot of HMS Modeste. The Hong merchants Pui Qua (How Qua) and Gneu Qua are indebted to the Company in about $800,000 and with their other debts to the country trade and Americans are in the hole for $2 millions. All the other Hong merchants are more or less in debt to the Company too, but Roberts is reliant on these two to progress the foreigners’ case in his negotiation.

The Viceroy takes the position that our smuggling funds the pirates and he wants us to either contribute $2 millions to the costs of their suppression or accept new taxes on our trade. Roberts says the Honourable Company would never involve itself in smuggling and is concerned only for real trade.

He told the Viceroy that Pui Qua and Gneu Qua had failed.

In the previous case of Shy Kin Qua’s failure in 1794, the Co-Hong paid-off the debt by instalments and recovered the outlay by new taxes on both imports and exports which continued to be levied even after the debts had been discharged.

To avoid this Roberts is offering to support Pui Qua and Gneu Qua by continuing to give them shares in the Company’s business which will enable them to trade through. The Company will assume the financial control of both Hongs, make their payments and discharge their debts until they recover. Roberts also apprehends that all the new smaller Hongs are in financial difficulty and cannot pay-off their present debts without jeopardising some other part of their business. They certainly cannot bear any new taxes. He accordingly commends the Viceroy not to solve the problem in the way that was done after Shy Kin Qua but to, effectively, transfer control of China’s international trade to the India Company which has the funds and expertise to develop it uncontentiously.

Roberts said he could not authorise the ship captains to deliver their cargo when payment had become so uncertain. If they did not deliver their cargoes they could not buy Chinese teas and silks. The presence of Capt George Elliot helped to give force to his words. HMS Modeste will remain at Chuen Pi until November and return to India on the winter monsoon.

Saturday 22nd December 1810

Admiral Drury has arrived back at Malacca. He took four Chinese junks en route with cargoes of sugar, arrack and bird’s nests which they had bought in Batavia. He brought the prizes into Malacca. The Chinese are completely ignorant of the reason for their detention. They have no doubt the British Admiral is a pirate.

The junk-masters attended Mr Koek, the Dutch representative and Prize Agent, to complain. He did not explain either. He offered them a charitable allowance of 25 Cents a day and a garden house to live in but they were dissatisfied and commenced a riot. They demand the return of their property.

The garrison had to turn-out and a few Chinese were arrested but they were still resentful. Drury agreed to give back their junks to enable their return home. He is keeping the cargoes.

Saturday 22nd December 1810

Don Juan, the Regent of Portugal, now holding Court at Rio de Janeiro has ordered the formation of a battalion of 500 men to form the garrison of Macau. He wishes to re-assert his rule over this distant but lucrative enclave. He has appointed Colonel Jose Ozario de Castro Cabral as the commander of the battalion. He has also appointed a new Governor of Macau – Bernardo Alexo de Limas a Faria and a new Dezembargador – Miguel de Silveira. Both the latter officers have been awarded the Grand Cross of Christ.

Several supportive members of the Leal Senado of Macau are made Knights of the Order of Christ. Three of them are the merchants Bernardo Gomes de Limas, Manoel Ferreira and Caetano Antonio de Campos.

The Regent has permitted the free import of Macau goods into all the Portuguese ports of Brazil.

Saturday 5th January 1811

Letters from China dated 31st October 1810 report that Man Hop, another Hong merchant, has failed.

Saturday 9th February 1811

The Company’s ship Indiana went aground on Pulo Aor (off the Johore east coast) whilst carrying 300 Chinese emigrants from Canton to Penang. Most were saved but the ship went to pieces.

Saturday 23rd February 1811

The Directors are trying to limit the visits to China of staff officers in the Company’s and H M’s forces in India. Staff officers might be any rank from Lieutenant up. A doctor issues a certificate saying they need to go to China for their health and the Presidency has to agree.

Now the Directors have ordered the Select at Canton to cease providing any financial assistance to army officers visiting from India. They required substantial sums for their support during the recent trade stoppage, sufficient to derange the Select’s financial planning.

Saturday 2nd March 1811

The Bullion Report that Wm Cobbett is reviewing in his newspaper contains a section dealing with exchange between England and Asia. The Bullion Committee has reviewed the Company’s accounts for ten years up to 1808 / 09. They have also interviewed Charles Grant.


…….. Grant says the relationship of value between silver and gold in China was 10:1 in 1730 but with the steady accumulation of silver in that country from the trade purchases of Europe, the rate deteriorated to 16:1 today. In China silver metal is used as currency for exchange.

…….. For several years the Company has ceased exporting silver to China. We now send sufficient goods from India to make up the trade balance. Silver for China trade now comes from the Americans and somewhat from the Spanish at Manila.

Saturday 23rd March 1811

Notice 23rd March 1811: The Canton Insurance Society was established at Canton on 1st January 1811 and M/s Shotton Calder & Co of Bombay are authorised to issue the Society’s policies on ships or merchandise from Bombay to China. Claims payable at either Canton or Bombay.

(This induces Forbes & Co of Bombay to issue a Notice that the Society should be distinguished from the Canton Insurance Company, established in the season 1806/07, for which it is the Agent.

The Canton Insurance Company was formed for five years expiring on 3rd January 1812. It will be continued thereafter as the Old Canton Insurance Company and the following members (its a mutual) have already offered to subscribe to the continuation company:

Forbes & Co, Palmer & Co, George Baring (who runs Baring & Co of Canton, the Company’s Agency for private Indian exporters), the Hon Hugh Lindsay, William Tierney Roberts, four of the Barretto family, et al)

Saturday 30th March 1811

Calcutta, 6th March – The Select Committee at Canton has been requested by the Governor-General to immediately re-open their Treasury for the sale of Bills on Bengal at $44 Spanish per 100 Current Rupees payable 30-days after Sight.

The Governor-General requires the Select to keep the Treasury open for receipt of silver until he orders otherwise.

Saturday 30th March 1811

The Portuguese ship Andromeda has arrived Calcutta from Macao in early March, via Malacca and Penang, after a voyage of only 37 days.

Fifteen American ships had arrived at Macau by 15th January, before the Andromeda sailed, and silver was abundant.

Cotton is 14½ – 15 Taels per picul and may go higher. Opium is flat at $1,000 – 1,050 per chest.

The Canton Government seized a large shipment of silver sycee that some country traders were trying to export. Export of sycee is illegal (its the currency of the country). Chinese policy is to constantly balance its foreign trade and she has enacted a law requiring it. The involved foreigners are incensed and are seeking for ways to recover their great loss.

Saturday 11th May 1811

The transport Canada has arrived at Calcutta from Whampoa. She is on the return leg of a voyage to deliver 122 female convicts to Botany Bay. She was licensed to visit China and load a full cargo of tea for the Company’s account. The Company has accumulated 60,000 chests of tea in its Canton warehouse but has inadequate ships to carry it back to London.

At the time of the Canada’s departure, the snow Amethyst (Chimenant) was anchored at Whampoa as the opium store ship. Sales of opium continue strangely dull. The price is unmoved at $1,050 nominal per chest. Indian cotton is selling at 13.5 Taels a bale.[53]

14 American ships had arrived in China at the time of the Canada’s departure.

J W Roberts, for long the President of the Select in China, had sailed for England on the Wexford.

Saturday 18th May 1811

Letter from Canton, 27th February:

The market for Bengal goods has been poor this last two months. 13.5 Taels is the very maximum to be expected of Bengal cotton. Opium at both Macau and Whampoa is nominal at $1,050 – 1,070.

Letter from Canton, 1st March:

The Select Committee has applied for Clearance Certificates for the residue of the Company’s fleet still at Whampoa but the Hoppo has issued none. The Canton officials say the affair of Williams remains unadjusted and we are supposed to report that to them before the shipping can be realesed. Williams was the seaman who killed a Chinese many months ago. We said we had sent him to England for punishment. They want to know the result.

Eventually, the ship commanders addressed a petition to the Viceroy and on 6th February the Company’s Commodore with Capt the Hon. Hugh Lindsay, several other captains and Mr Parry of the Select together with their pursers and some European servants, totally about forty men, entered one of the gates of the city and marched in without opposition. Some of the residents pointed out the way to the Hoppo’s yamen. The foreigners entered this building and requested to deliver a petition to the Hoppo. Soon afterwards several officials turned-up to receive the petition on behalf of the Hoppo. Lindsay insisted on presenting it to that officer in person.

Most of the European party withdrew leaving Lindsay and Parry in the Hoppo’s Audience Hall. Then a high official with a numerous train of retainers came in whom the two foreigners assumed to be the Viceroy and he accepted the letter. He passed it to his interpreter for translation and then said it would have his attention. The foreigners then formed up outside the Hoppo’s doors with their servants like a military party and marched back to the city gate. On passing out of the gate in the city wall, the servants at the rear of the party were jostled by the sentries who had been embarrassed by our entrance (they had been absent from their posts at the time of our entry). They said no-one should enter Canton without permission. There was some fighting but no-one was seriously hurt.

The following day the Hoppo sent back the petition for amendment. He said if the words ‘injustice of the Chinese government‘ were removed, he would grant the request. This was done and the Grand Chops were issued a few days later.

The whole protest was the idea of Hugh Lindsay who convinced everyone to join-in and who personally led the march through the city. The shipping thus released is worth over £1 million. Lindsay should get a reward.

Saturday 25th May 1811

A case of evasion of payment of duty has been heard at the Exchequer Sittings in London:

The Solicitor General said the government tax of 90% on the auction price of tea had encouraged smuggling all along the Channel coast. He noted that in former cases the Captains of Indiamen who smuggled tea in this way had been fined £200 per incident. The offences were routinely discovered by comparison of the loading manifest done at Whampoa with the out-turn at London.

In the instant case he withdrew his prosecution as only 4 cases out of 18,000 were short and the involved captain was making his first voyage.

Saturday 10th August 1811

The Indiaman Taunton Castle arrived Madras from London on 27th July 1811 bringing inter alia 20 Chinese returning emigrants.

Saturday 16th November 1811

Every warehouse in Bombay is empty. All our local produce has been loaded into the Company’s China fleet that leaves tomorrow for Canton. HMS Teignmouth will provide convoy protection.

Saturday 14th December 1811

The country ship Hope arrived Calcutta from China on 4th December. She reports that several Bombay cotton ships and some Portuguese ships had arrived at Macau and Indian cotton was selling at 15 Taels the picul at Canton.

The price of opium fell in July due to unregulated Dutch sales of stock from Java prior to its invasion by the British and was thereafter trading at $900 a chest.

When the Hope sailed from China there were only two American ships at Whampoa.

Saturday 14th December 1811

One of the English ships at Whampoa, on learning of our conquest of Batavia, fired a salute. The shot killed two Chinese and a trial is to be held.

Saturday 25th January 1812

Letter from Canton, 30th October 1811 – the cotton crop in China failed this year and this is the reason that Indian cotton has been selling so well. It continues at 15+ Taels a bale.

The present Viceroy Sung knows Sir George Staunton. He became Viceroy here after the 1793 Embassy and met Staunton in Peking. When Staunton arrived at Macau he was invited to Canton for an interview with both the Viceroy and some other high officials. Since then the Viceroy has visited Macau and been entertained by the President of the Select, Elphinstone, with Staunton in attendance.

It is being said by the English that whenever any difficulty arises, Staunton only has to send a letter and the Viceroy will send chairs and an escort to bring him to his yamen and settle matters.

The English mercantile community is pleased but the junior Chinese officials are distraught. They fear for the income from their unauthorised taxes.

On 30th October Elphinstone and Select member Parry together with Staunton and Captains Briggs and Broughton of the two visiting British frigates had an audience at the Viceroy’s yamen in Canton. No details are available. The Viceroy accepted an invitation to inspect the Balcarras, one of our most beautiful ships.

Saturday 1st February 1812

Letter from Canton – An officer of HMS Indefatigable whilst ashore, hunting at Chuen Pi (the navy anchors in Anson’s Bay), reports that he was surrounded by some villagers who confiscated his gun.

Capt Thomas Briggs, the senior naval officer on the China station, protested to the Viceroy stating that his orders were to act in China with mildness and he hoped provincial officials would reciprocate.

The Governor of Canton sent immediately to Chuen Pi and had several people taken back to Canton. The fowling piece was recovered and returned to the Englishman. It transpired the Cantonese do not use guns for hunting; they trap wild animals.

Saturday 1st February 1812

A large fleet of China ships has arrived at Madras. They left Macau on 29th November.

Saturday 7th March 1812

Calcutta, 15th February – The Portuguese ship Andromeda has arrived from China but she only brought $130,000 in silver and not the huge amount that was previously reported.

Saturday 21st March 1812

Cotton prices in China have fallen to 12 Taels a bale. It is feared, if we war with America, that we will prevent receipt of their silver supply that lubricates China-trade. When silver is short at Canton, all prices collapse.

Saturday 4th April 1812

The Mornington (Dunlop) has arrived at Calcutta from Canton and brings China news to the end of January. Mr Kerr, the King’s botanist, arrived on this ship. He has been collecting Chinese plants for Kew Gardens. The Mornington brought a considerable quantity of silver from China, part of the proceeds of our favourable balance of trade.

The generally unsatisfactory state of the China market has worsened and the stagnation of trade is unprecedented. 40,000 bales of cotton remain with the Hong merchants unsold. The Bombay ship Hannah and the Calcutta ship Anna arrived after the majority of sales were complete and had difficulty getting the Hong merchants to accept their cotton at any price. It was eventually sold at 10.4 Taels a bale but has been warehoused because of the lack of demand and will long remain a merely documentary transaction. We should say that the extraordinary demand of the Company for transports to invade Java meant that less ships than normal went to China this year. That is very fortunate given the market circumstances. In late years Bengal cotton sells in China at 1.5 – 2 Taels more than Bombay cotton. On present prices, this appears to fix Bombay cotton prices at a ruinous 8.5 – 9 Taels a bale.

Opium is still $1,060 per chest but the market is firming. There must have been an alternative supply to keep our sales so quiet for so long (rumoured to have been Dutch sales to resident Chinese merchants at Batavia before the British invasion – it was shipped to Fukien)

Whilst all our sales to China are cheap, the cost of exports has continued high. The resident European merchants at Canton say most of the Hong merchants are under-capitalised and the 2-3 merchants who have money are taking the opportunity to extend their control over the market. They buy our imports from the small Hongs, sometimes at an even lower price than we ourselves received. It is a Chinese mercantile habit to dispose expeditiously of items that are difficult to sell in order to release capital for things that are in regular demand. The small Hongs only bought our goods so they could dispose of their exports. For a brief moment they may have thought they were making profit but they should have relinquished that dream by now.

The whole trade of India with China, both the Company’s and the country merchants’, is under the control of these 2-3 prosperous Hong merchants.

At the time of the Mornington’s departure from Macau, there were 4 American ships in Taipa roads.

Saturday 25th April 1812

Letter of 7th December from the representatives of Indian Agency-Houses (free traders) at Canton to J F Elphinstone, President of the Select Committee:

We are creditors of Pon Qua and Gnew Qua and write to you again concerning our large claims. We wish you to address the Chinese government on this subject but, before doing so, we would like your advice whether you will combine with us concerning our claims on Lou Qua, Pon Qua and Man Hop. We attach an Address to the Viceroy of the Two Kwong and request that you deliver it but we should like to have your comments on it.

Sgd Baring & Co, H D Forbes for Bruce Fawcett & Co, A L Barretto & Co, Alexander Shank, H Wright, G Webb, C C Mackintosh, Hormusjee Bhicajee, Hormusjee Dorabjee, Tarachund Motichund and Mohamed Ali Rouguey.

The Address to Viceroy Sung:

We are saddened to hear you will soon be posted to another province but congratulate you on your promotion. We have relied on your protection and support to relieve us of the distress of our commercial situation.

In the 14th year of this reign, Gnew Qua and Pon Qua were unable to pay their debts to us and petitioned for the protection of the Select. The Company replied with a plan to administer the business of all the Hong merchants in order to procure their solvency in 2-3 years. The Company will not trouble the Canton government in its plan. We approve any arrangement that would save Gnew Qua and Pon Qua from bankruptcy but, although we have not reported the claims we have against the two Hongs, Your Excellency was pleased to arrest the two merchants and Pon Qua has since died in prison while Gnew Qua is ordered to be banished. The remaining Hong merchants then informed us that the debts of Gnew Qua and Pon Qua would be paid-off over the next 10 years, commencing in the 17th year of the Ka Hing (Kea King or now Jiaqing) Emperor. Three years have elapsed and ten more are required for us to collect our debts before we can return to our families. Throughout that time a part of our capital is sunk in the failed merchants’ debts and we cannot trade to our full extent.

Please pay our claims quickly. The Emperor’s Decree on the disposal of these debts was made without any representation from us. Please have compassion and help us. Amend the Emperor’s Decree to extend justice to us

Elphinstone’s reply of 8th December:

The Company will summon the Hong merchants, who are the official channel of communication with the Chinese government and request them to deliver your Address to the Viceroy.

We recognise the hardship of your case but warn you that your present application is unlikely to afford relief.

Concerning Euchin (Lou Qua), Pon Qua and Man Hop, we made no complaints last season and do not intend to make any this season. Two of them owe very considerable sums to the Company and, should they become bankrupt, we will certainly report the Company’s claims against them to the Chinese government.

We advise you to take whatever lawful measures you think appropriate. We cannot give any advice concerning the eligibility of country traders to address the provincial government.

Saturday 2nd May 1812

Serampore, 21st March – Marshman’s translation of the Works of Confucius has been delayed. The fire in the printing works at Serampore destroyed the entire stock of Superfine Royal paper on which the first 200 pages of the book have already been printed. The fire not only destroyed the paper stock but damaged the fonts for fifteen Asian languages. There is no stock of this quality of paper in India and replacement will have to be ordered from London.

In the interim Marshman will print his dissertation on the Chinese language on the best paper that is locally available.

Saturday 15th August 1812

Theophilus John Metcalfe and John Reeves have left London on Alnwick Castle for China. Reeves is the Company’s new tea taster. John William Roberts of the Select has also left London on Bombay for China.

Saturday 7th November 1812

House of Lords, 5th May – Discussion on renewal of the India Company’s trade monopoly in China, expiring 1813.

Marquis Wellesley had a petition from 700 London merchants against the opening of the China trade.[54] He was merely a conduit and did not share the petitioners’ views. They say they have risked their capital in China trade because the law restricted it to London.[55] If it is extended to the outports, they say the whole country will lose, not just them. They conclude that if parliament disagrees, it should pay them compensation.

Buckingham said the negotiation with the Company had become intemperate. The parties were far apart. No agreement should be expected for parliamentary approval until next session.

Petitions were also presented from the people of Wakefield and Halifax and the manufacturers of Wiltshire against the renewal of the Company’s monopoly.

Saturday 26th December 1812

Notice – Bombay land and building for sale:

The landed estates of Sorabjee Muncherjee and Herjee Jivajee will be sold by tender on 12th January 1813. They are divided for sale into 19 lots of land or buildings.

The 18th Lot is an office and warehouse in Canton, China built by Sorabjee Muncherjee and presently leased at 100 Rupees per month.[56]

Saturday 2nd January 1813

The Anna (Tate) has returned from Canton bringing letters to 7th October. Cotton is selling slowly at 12 Taels but returns are difficult to procure. The Chinese cotton crop this year has been very big but the tea and sugar crops seem to have reduced; indeed sugar is being imported from Manila and Batavia. The weather has been boisterous and the Lord Castlereagh of Bombay reported losing two anchors at Lintin before entering the river.

The Warren Hastings and Lord Castlereagh have arrived at Calcutta from China bringing slightly less than a million Rupees in silver (c. $500,000), remitted by the country trade through the Bills mechanism. It will alleviate the local shortage in Bengal. Actually money at Canton has been scarce this season owing to the Americans again staying away. This has caused an accumulation of 60,000 bales of cotton in the warehouses of the Hong merchants. Opium was $1,055 the chest in early October.

Saturday 2nd January 1813

Portsmouth Telegraph, 3rd June 1812 – the Company’s returning China-fleet has arrived with £3.5 millions in silver (390 tons in dollars and sycee) from Canton. A single merchant bank in the West End had $173,000 of this shipment consigned to it. This single great importation has caused the silver price in London to fall considerably.

Saturday 10th April 1813

The Arabella arrived at Madras from China in late March. She left Whampoa on 13th February. She reports opium and betelnut are selling well at $1,170 and $8 per picul respectively.

Mow Qua has died and his stock of cottons, nearly 50,000 bales, was put on the market and completely collapsed prices. The main trading difficulty is not an excess of products but a dearth of currency to fund deals (all our smuggling trade is done for silver). There is little silver remaining in Canton.

An American ship arrived just as Arabella was leaving and another seven followed her in. They were all unaware of the outbreak of war with England (the War of 1812 – see the North America chapter).

Saturday 29th May 1813

Notice, 26th May – The French Society of Foreign Missions has supported Catholic missionaries serving in Asia for decades. They have just issued an appeal for help:

Since the commencement of the war (the long war of the Kings against democracy, called the Great War in the media), we received support from Mexico and it was sufficient to maintain us until now. Recently a great fire at Penang destroyed our building and possessions.

From Penang we provide funds and material to our brethren in Siam, Tong King, Cochin-China and China. We send preachers to those countries and receive back native youths for instruction whom we indoctrinate in the true faith and return to inform their fellows.

As we have so long been cut-off from Europe our staff are aging and diminishing in numbers. About 30 European priests remain and 120 native auxiliaries (mostly Chinese) have been trained. We have a Christian congregation of almost 300,000 in China and its surrounding countries. The seminary for all these churches is at Penang. The expenses of maintaining all these people and sending them back and forth has been defrayed by our rental income on several houses in Penang which is where we invested all our capital. All of these houses were destroyed in the fire.

We appeal to the charity of British India. We still own the land on which our buildings were erected. Our main claim on your attention has been our acts in various Asian countries when we have used our local influence to obtain board and lodging for your shipwrecked crews. We have also occasionally facilitated your admission to ports that would ordinarily be closed to you. We are known throughout Asia for our upright behaviour which has facilitated the introduction of your trade.

We throw ourselves on your commiseration and liberality.

Donations to Forbes & Co or Bruce Fawcett & Co.

Saturday 10th July 1813

Calcutta, 10th June – Three Filipino Christians have been convicted of murdering a Chinese merchant in Calcutta. The one who ordered the death blow has been hanged.

Saturday 10th July 1813

Probolinggo, east coast of North Java, 18th May:

Two British army officers were visiting the Chinese headman near this town when word came that a party of 300 Muslims had descended from the hills onto a nearby village and taken it in the name of the Prophet.

The officers went to that village to investigate; the Muslims charged and the party fell back upon a small group of houses which they defended with only slight success.

A slave was sent to Probolinggo to call for reinforcements and by next morning we had 150 men assembled for a counter attack. This failed and we had to abandon the area. The two army officers were later found murdered.

The Chinese headman and local landowner Han Ki Ko and his relative Ong Tiong Tiong were also killed. Ong Tiong Suey was injured. The Chinese were very helpful.

Another detachment was sent the next day and dispersed the Muslims.

Saturday 31st July 1813

A letter from China via Java says Patna opium is selling at $1,200 a chest in good demand but the Portuguese supply will shortly arrive and depress prices. Cotton is selling slowly.

Thirteen American ships have come to Whampoa from the eastern islands (whence they source sandalwood and sea cucumber), unaware of the war. They are now laid-up and some are being dismantled although there is no blockade by H M frigates.

Saturday 21st August 1813

Shipping arrivals Batavia – the Chinese brig San Hin Cheo (Kiong Saing) from Banjer Masina 13th June with a cargo of sundries.

Saturday 9th October 1813

An account of the Russian mission to Peking in 1805 has been published at St Petersburg. The object of the mission is said to have been solely commercial. Count Geloskin led the Russian delegation. They were met by the Governor of the frontier province of entry who said he was a brother-in-law of the Manchu Emperor.

Everything appeared to be going well until a feast commenced. The Russian party were expected to bow to a vacant throne representing the Manchu Emperor. Geloskin said he could not bow to a chair but would bow to the Emperor in person. After two hours of discussion, Geloskin left without his feast.

A Chinese official proposed that one Russian might be escorted to Peking with a letter from the Provincial Governor explaining what had happened and requesting instructions. This was agreed.

In February 1806 an answer was returned from Peking that the Russian emissary seemed to be mad and the best that could be done for him was the grant of safe conduct back to the frontier. By the time of his arrival, the Count had 11 days of safe conduct remaining to complete the journey back to Russia. He left immediately.

Saturday 1st January 1814

Letter from Canton – The Company’s ships via Bombay to China arrived at Macau on 28th August and Whampoa on 6th September. The direct China ships and the Castlereagh of Bombay arrived Whampoa the day before. The fleet via Madras to China had not arrived as of 17th October.

There is a dispute in the Canton market concerning cotton sales which may delay the departure of the Bombay ships.

Two American frigates have been seen off the Lima Islands and the three Royal Navy ships at Macau have gone out after them.

Saturday 1st January 1814

Penang, 13th November 1813 – The Friendship and Mysore arrived here from China and report all foreign goods are selling at low prices. The Captains of the many Indiamen passing through this port en route to China do not expect any profit on their personal trade this season. The problem as usual is a shortage of circulating medium, the Americans necessarily having stayed away again.

Saturday 29th January 1814

Letter from Canton, 17th November – Whilst the Emperor was away from Peking, he left his nine sons in charge. They are hedonists and opium smokers and only one or two show much promise as administrators of a great Empire.

Three of their cousins, acting with 12 eunuchs and a party of about 70 rebels, forced an entrance to the palace and executed thirty of the palace guards. They appear to have intended a coup d’état. Fortunately the Emperor’s second son cut one down and shot an arrow at another and that was enough to make the rest of them run away. The palace gates were closed after them.

Since then a faithful General has arrested the plotters and they are condemned to death. The eunuchs and cousins, and ten officials who were at best negligent, have been sentenced to slicing; the remaining sixty soldiers are to be beheaded.

Saturday 5th February 1814

Canton, 8th November 1813 – an Edict of the Ka Hing Emperor has arrived. He blames himself for the palace revolution. When he assumed the government from the Kien Lung Emperor, the country was in good order. ….. Remainder illegible.

Saturday 12th February 1814

The Portuguese ship Carmo has arrived Calcutta from China. She brings $750,000 in silver. The dispute between the Select and the provincial government continues and Company ships are not allowed to land their cargoes. The private trade is unaffected.

Saturday 12th February 1814

The Penang Court commenced its second sessions on 2nd December. The Governor, the Recorder and W E Phillips sat together to hear the cases. Several prisoners were tried for the murder of a Chinese farmer and acquitted.

Canton Register Vol 13 No 19 – 12th May 1840

Editor – The late John Morrison wrote this in his memoirs in 1814. We believe it has not previously been published. It should be widely read because his opinions then are clearly still true today:

The conditions of trade at Canton are onerous. They arise from a system of oppression that is presented formally, but speciously, as reasonable. There is no acknowledgement of reciprocal benefit from trade. That would form a basis to the expectation of reciprocal rights. To avoid the equality of bargaining positions that this would entail, the Chinese assert a disdain for trade and hold that they only permit it from motives of compassion for ‘men from afar’. They, being the benefactors of foreign traders, build an expectation of gratitude on this. In this way the foreign merchant is relieved of the legal rights he would enjoy elsewhere and is supposed to become a grateful and submissive supplicant for business.

This method of dealing characterises all the proceedings of the Canton provincial government. They skilfully present their positions as reasonable and common-sense and the perplexed foreigner is left dumb-founded. The Cantonese have a saying “the mandarins have the largest mouths”. They shape this oppressive system with a semblance of justice to facilitate their tyranny and oppression. And observers far away in Europe, reading the sense and reason of Chinese documents, conclude the Chinese are being misrepresented by the foreign traders.

It would be an endless task to recite all forms of oppression – their persons, their employers, their country and their King are contemptuously described in official papers; we are routinely called barbarians, devils and liars. The officers of HM ships are called plunderers. When we submit petitions through the Hong merchants we are not allowed to call our firms ‘honourable’ or our King an ‘independent sovereign’. Our native servants are fined and punished from time to time simply because they serve us. Trade has been interrupted on frivolous grounds – say, an official fee due from a Hong merchant that remains unpaid. These are daily features of our lives here.

The system has more serious ramifications:

    • A Company employee was imprisoned for being in possession of a letter from the Select to the provincial government;
    • An English seaman was judicially strangled for accidentally killing a Chinese;
    • The entire Company fleet was once detained after a man was killed in a fight. When the foreign murderer could not be identified, two Hong merchants were sentenced to transportation. These two, with government permission, were then trading through a cashflow shortage with Company help. This affair brought out many wild accusations against the then President of the Select and an attempt to remove him from office.
    • Refusing provisions to H M ships then in China whilst provisioning the warships of England’s enemies.
    • A refusal to hear the Company’s side of a matter whilst peculiar official accusations were accepted as matters of fact.

These are the bricks and mortar of our grievances. They can be lessened by tackling the Chinese insistence on their superiority. We need an English judicial authority with civil jurisdiction to reside here and be the accredited point of contact on all non-commercial matters. That would require the provincial civil officers to deal with him on terms of equality. We have 2,000 – 3,000 people subject to English law coming here each season. Some of these have dealings with the worst types of Chinese. They get together in the suburbs and arrange crimes. This produces the occasional acts of violence that give us so much difficulty with the Chinese officials. We try to screen murderers from the Chinese but our law does not permit us to punish them in England for offences committed in China. If an Englishman kills another Englishman here he gets away with it. Thus every year a few thousand people are unregulated by any form of law.

When frauds are perpetrated on Chinese shopmen they respond by cudgelling the fraudster. If they get caught they are liable to punishment but not the foreigner. We really need someone to regulate the foreign community and restrain its wilder elements. The power to punish for crime is highly respected in China and a foreign magistrate would have higher standing with them than any trader, no matter how rich. The Chinese will not accept a permanent Embassy at Peking but if we had a Judge here who visited Peking, say triennially, his acts would curb the worst excesses of the Canton government against foreigners.

The Chinese government, like all others, has repeated financial difficulties. In 1814 they were really in difficulty. Rebellion and poor harvests do immense injury and merchants throughout the empire fall in arrears of duty and taxes. The land tax cannot be paid by a farmer whose crop has failed. He cannot even pay in kind or refund the seed grain he was given to start with. The Chinese government responds to shortage by requesting contributions from wealthy natives, by reducing salaries of civil servants and by selling honours at reduced rates. It appears to be true that they would not voluntarily make any fundamental changes merely to preserve the foreign trade. Actually we do not ask it of them – merely that they be just, equitable and civil.

Saturday 26th February 1814

Penang, 10th January 1814 – a letter from China says Elphinstone (President of the Select) has received the Canton Viceroy’s agreement to the commercial points in dispute and trade is re-opened. The Company’s ships are expected to load and sail for London in February.

The attempted coup in Peking last summer was concurrent with extensive flooding along the Yangtse and other rivers and a famine has developed.

This has slowed trade. Bombay cotton gets 13 Taels a picul; betelnut $4. Only pepper is selling well at $6 per picul.

Saturday 2nd July 1814

The India ship Providence was detained at Whampoa for a month. She feared attack by an armed trading ship America with a crew of 50 and a cargo of sea otter furs from the Canadian west coast.

The supposed privateer was lurking in the Ladrones until the frigates HMS Phoenix and Doris left to convoy the returning Company ships. She then came straight up to Whampoa, sold her furs, loaded a return cargo and was actually on her way down river when a report was received of HMS Doris returning to Macau.

The America was not the only ship inconvenienced by this stratagem of the Royal Navy; the American ship Hunter has been laid-up in the river for months awaiting an opportunity to sail. She loaded and sailed but was captured by HMS Doris. The America privateer remained at Whampoa and the Providence then sailed on 8th April. She has just arrived at Calcutta. She brings 700,000 Rupees in silver and a large amount of Bills on the Company.

It is reported that several country ships at Macau were permitted to join the Company’s convoy to Calcutta.

Saturday 2nd July 1814

Letter from Canton, 3rd April – the quantity of cotton imported to China this year is large and has reduced prices. Early arrivals got 13 Taels whilst late arrivals are getting 11.5 Taels the bale.

Opium is now offered at $1,130 per chest but few buyers and over 800 chests remain in stock. By the time the Madras ships arrive it is expected there will still be a stock of 600 chests overhanging the market. If high prices are maintained at the Calcutta auctions, the speculators will keep their opium here and may eventually profit. If Calcutta prices fall, the speculators will be hurt.

Saturday 2nd July 1814

The Editor has received some papers from Canton concerning the rebellions that have been reported in China. The information is sourced from extracts of the Peking Gazettes published between November 1813 – January 1814 and from private letters:

Twelve days after the coup at the Imperial palace, a leading official in Peking wrote to the Viceroy of the Two Kwong. He says a town in Hunan Province was occupied by insurgents and the government officials put to death; another town in Chih Li Province was burned and a third in Shantung was pillaged.

The imperial army is suppressing dissent wherever it goes – men, women and children are being executed. In one place where the famine was particularly severe, the residents captured their magistrate, who was a fat fellow, and cooked him. Officials have adverted to supernatural occurrences that, they say, reveal the disapproval of ancestors to dissent. A virtuous man, long since dead and deified, is popularly expected to be resurrected and save the country. Indeed, the rebel leader in Shantung is named Lin and identifies himself as a reincarnation of a good and brave man from a millennia ago.

The causes of public disorder are not clearly identified but there are three contending suggestions:

  • Some say it is due to a comet that appeared two years ago.
  • Others say that it is due to the disaffection of the Emperor’s brothers. It is widely believed that three of the Emperors brothers and many of the palace eunuchs were involved in the coup d’Etat. Eighteen eunuchs were executed after the attempt on the Emperor in the palace and numerous palace ladies were assisted to commit suicide. Two prior attempts to kill the Emperor are mentioned. One was when he was reading some official papers and called for his pipe. A servant brought it and the emperor had it in his hand when it exploded but caused him no injury. The servant was executed. On another occasion, one of the palace eunuchs presented a cup of ginseng tea but the emperor was not inclined to partake and gave it to a favourite who died shortly thereafter. The conspirators fixed their insurrection while the Emperor was at the summer palace in Jehol. He was expected to return at the time of the planned assassination but was delayed a couple of days. It is said this fortuitous escape reveals he has Heaven on his side which is an important consideration.
  • The third popular belief concerns the style of Chinese administration, which keeps everyone at subsistence level and the slightest reduction of their provisions (from unrest, floods, droughts, etc) brings on an instant threat of famine. When times are hard and the local magistrate demands a share of agricultural production as tax, the people have the choice of giving the grain and starving or rebellion.

The Laws of the Ching Dynasty look very well on paper but their execution is left to officials who, though well qualified, have their own extensive personal needs. The central government policy is to keep the people poor, but the local administration of that policy makes them even poorer than intended.

A system of travelling censors, supposedly the Emperor’s ‘eyes and ears’, should have forewarned Peking of famine but the institution has reportedly become corrupt and ineffective.

The famine of 1813 was very severe in many provinces and is said to have been the worst for centuries. It was caused when the Cheung Kong (Yangtse River) broke its banks in many places and destroyed a vast amount of rice. Every flood is followed a week or two later by an epidemic, so there is disease as well as privation (the towns and villages use sespits which get flooded). In February 1814, in response to widespread hardship, the Emperor required the Canton Provincial Government (a rich province) to contribute to alleviate suffering but this attempt to mitigate distress was too late and too little. In these circumstances the popular response is rebellion and an exciting if temporary career as a plunderer.

The main body of rebels in Hunan have retired into a mountainous area where the army will have difficulty reaching them. They descend onto the surrounding towns for plunder whenever necessary. Usually these rebellions end with amnesty once the causes have evaporated.[57]

Saturday 16th July 1814

The 15% import duty on British goods and manufactures to Goa and Macau and the other Portuguese ports has been levied by mistake. Under the Anglo-Portuguese commercial treaty of 19th February 1810 it should be 5% as was previously levied. The Prince Regent at Rio has decreed the 5% rate is to be used.

Saturday 20th August 1814

Canton market news – Buyers at the December 1813 and February 1814 opium sales at Calcutta are likely to lose money on their China-trade. Cotton is also cheap; the Ganges sold its cargo for 10 Taels 8 Mace per bale.

A letter from Macau, dated 10th May, says the number of ships arriving has been large and the market for foreign goods has diminished as the Chinese buyers wait to see how cheap our goods will get. Only when the last ship has arrived will prices become firmer. The Chinese cotton crop this year was very small and Nankeens are in short supply. This should eventually mean that Indian cotton will appreciate as the better qualities of Indian fibre are sometimes mixed with China cotton and sold as Nankeens by the Canton merchants. The foreign trade is therefore anticipating that Indian cotton prices will incrementally rise and by August may be at the 16 Tael level.

Saturday 17th December 1814

HMS Doris has arrived at Madras from China. She reports trade is again stopped.

Saturday 24th December 1814

The state of trade in Canton is worrying. HMS Doris is at Penang from whence Capt O’Brien of that frigate reports that the Canton Provincial government is generally in favour of the ‘new people’ (the Americans) whereas we are at war with them and will attack their ships wherever we meet them.

Currently there are 20 American ships in the River and our China squadron of three warships is in the estuary just waiting for them to come out. They are from Boston and New York and do not support Madison’s War but we cannot distinguish them from their government or exonerate their national activities.

The Hong merchants have procured some help for the Americans. The English warships are not being provisioned until the Select agrees not to harass the China-trade (i.e. the Americans). As a result, trade is temporarily stopped. HMS Doris is coming to her home port of Madras for instructions from the Admiral. The other two British warships remain in the estuary to maintain the blockade.

From a correspondent in Canton, we hear the Hong merchants expect to resolve the matter by loading the India ships in the expectation that the warships will convoy them away and thus allow the Americans to likewise depart. The receipt of our trade-proceeds from China (in silver) may be slightly delayed.

Saturday 31st December 1814

The Upton Castle has arrived from Whampoa. At the time of her departure in August, she was the only country ship at the anchorage. As soon as she started to descend the river, the US privateers Jacob Jones and Tommy Hummimah also raised anchor and followed her down. The Upton Castle anchored in the river within the neutral jurisdiction of China and sent a boat to the estuary to call on the British warships for protection.

After a few days the sails of HMS Doris were seen and the Upton Castle continued its voyage undisturbed by the Americans. Fortunate she was that the Americans turned back as the incoming ship was not HMS Doris but another country ship United Kingdom. In this unintended way one merchant ship escaped and another reached safety.

Saturday 7th January 1815

The Editor has published two letters from Canton:

  • Canton, 20th October – All trade is stopped. The three direct Indiamen from London are at Whampoa but not allowed to open their holds. The crews have been aboard for months and are boisterous. None of our ships are allowed compradors; none are receiving provisions through the formal system. Our warships at Chuen Pi (HMS Grampus and Owen Glendower) are getting neither beef nor vegetables from the compradors. Since the stoppage of trade, no British ship is allowed into the river. There are nine British merchant ships anchored at Lintin.
    Ten Chinese warjunks are anchored across the river about two miles above the Tiger’s Mouth. They have advised the warships that if they or their boats enter the river they will be fired upon. Extra artillery has been installed in the forts at either side of the river’s entrance.
    The British offence that caused this situation is attributed to HMS Doris (O’Brien). He entered the river in hot pursuit of an American ship, seized it at Whampoa and tried to take it away. The Chinese call it piracy and a breach of their strict neutrality. The Select has sent O’Brien and HMS Doris away to mollify the Chinese but they want more – specific undertakings that the boats of our warships will stay out of the river and not disturb the trade again. We cannot make that promise – the Royal Navy must be free to go wherever our merchant ships go.
    The Chinese admiral has sent a message to the British shipping at Lintin and Chuen Pi to come into port and trade or go away. We told him Capt O’Brien ordered us not to enter. Now the Select have ordered the shipping at Whampoa to leave the river and, together with the four ships at Chuen Pi, to assemble with the other five ships at Lintin preparatory to departure.
    There are 11 American ships at Whampoa including four privateers (Sphinx, Russell, Jacob Jones and Rambler). Some are loaded and ready to sail but they are unwilling to risk the chance of capture by the Royal Navy once they exit the river. It is supposed that they have called on their ally How Qua to fix things with the provincial officials.
    The Americans have a better relationship with the Chinese than the British. When the Rambler came in, she tied-up to starboard of a big Chinese junk and the two ships sailed into the river together passed HMS Grampus in Anson’s Bay which could not clearly distinguish the little American ship.
    Its not just How Qua and the Hong merchants that are biased, the Canton government has also taken the American part. The Chinese are unconcerned by our squabbles – they are only concerned for trade and they are irritated by the British who, they say, carry their disputes all around the world. This morning, they requested the Royal Navy ships to leave the estuary. We refused.
    We have complained about the American privateers but the Chinese officials say they are armed for self-protection. It is true that all the British Indiamen are well-armed too and our country ships have a few cannon as well – it is difficult to sustain an argument that American ships should be less well-armed, particularly when they are so small. The annoying thing is the Chinese cannot know we are much stronger than the Americans militarily – they treat both our countries equally.
  • Canton, 27th October 1814 – On the advice of the senior British naval officer on station, Capt Brian Hodgson, the Select Committee advises all British shipping to exit the river within the next four days.
    This manoeuvre is intended to encourage the Canton Provincial Government to re-open trade. We are not really leaving, just trying to persuade the Viceroy that buyers need sellers and vice versa – we rely on each other.
    An appeal to the clemency of the Emperor has also been made by the Select.

Saturday 14th January 1815

Calcutta, 20th December – the Emma has arrived from China which she left on 18th October. She brings $350,000 in silver coins from South America via Manila. It’s the first South American silver we have received for a long time. The rest of her cargo is Chinese tutenague.

Emma reports that the dispute between the Select and the Canton Provincial Government has worsened.

Capt Patterson, one of the Indiamen commanders, was stopped while travelling up the river in his ship’s boat. Trade remains stopped and many little vexatious restrictions have been introduced to annoy us. The Chinese do this to curb our pride.

Informal communication between the shipping at Whampoa and the shore is stopped.[58] The Select has told all the Europeans resident in the factories at Canton to leave for Macau.

Our trump card, Sir George Staunton, was sent to Canton with James Molony of the Select but was rebuffed and sent away. We have now prepared a complaint to the Emperor against the Viceroy and his officers and are seeking for a way to deliver it to Peking (usually done by Portuguese priests or Hong staff).

The last opium sale at Calcutta (1,512 chests of Bihar and 324 chests of Benares) on 19th December produced 2,631 and 2,313 Rupees per chest respectively whereas the requested price at Canton, according to the Prices Current of 15th October (all nominal due to the confrontation), is $1,170 per chest. This might permit a tiny profit to holders of the new supply but there is no demand and a large stock on hand. The annual opium export for China market is set by the Company at 2,300 chests but on 13th October there remained 1,900 chests at Macau.

Saturday 21st January 1815

HMS Doris (O’Brien) after a brief visit to Calcutta has returned to the Far East with a cargo of treasure.[59]

Saturday 28th January 1815

Two Dutch ships have touched at Port Louis, Mauritius, for water and provisions. They are in ballast and are travelling to China for tea. They are the first Dutch ships in Asia for many years.

Saturday 18th February 1815

The spat at Canton has taken a new twist and trade remains stopped but now it is the order of the Company that prevents it.

Ah Yen, a Chinese shopman and important source of advice on official thinking at Canton, has been advising the Select to be firm because he says the Canton officials imperatively need trade and must ultimately submit to the Company’s wishes. He was then arrested by the Canton government for improper relations with foreigners (Chinese are not supposed to connect with foreigners – only Hong merchants can do that).[60]

In consequence, the Company purports to have voluntarily withdrawn from trade. They say they will send their cotton shipments to Europe instead of selling them here. They have also declared they will send a letter to the Emperor, but getting to the north at this time of year is impossible.

Everyone is astonished and no-one believes them. Their attempt to influence Chinese domestic administration cannot succeed.

Nevertheless, the Chinese have re-opened trade as the tea shipments are starting to arrive and it is only the Company’s order that is preventing their sale. That is unlikely to endure for long.

Saturday 11th March 1815

The Diana (Tyrer) sailed from Whampoa on 21st January for Madras. The first fleet of seven Indiamen sailed the same day. During the previous week six of the American ships blockaded at Whampoa slipped down river and somehow evaded HMS Grampus at Chuen Pi and made good their escape. The dispute with the Canton government is ended but the terms are unknown.

Saturday 1st April 1815

The Good Success (John Reid) and Ann (Riddock) have arrived from Canton. They left there in late-January. Sale of Indian and European goods has been very difficult. All except one of the American ships trapped in the River have left. They are said to have temporarily abandoned trade for privateering and are cruising off the Pearl estuary. The two arrivals bring no other news.

Meanwhile the Diana and Frederick Maria have arrived at Madras with the annual supply of China-goods for that port. The Albion subsequently sailed from Madras with what is reported to be the highest value cargo ever shipped by a country ship from that port (NB – I have not elucidated the significance of this sentence but it seems likely to refer to the loans with compound interest that merchants in Madras extend to Hong Merchants)

Saturday 15th April 1815

The China-trade was opened for a few weeks at the beginning of the year – just long enough to buy and load the teas and get the Company’s fleet away. It was then stopped in response to the Imperial reply to the complaint of the Select against the provincial Viceroy.

The Emperor is surprised that a small group of visiting foreigners would see fit to complain the Viceroy of two large Provinces. He refers to his clemency and kindness in permitting foreign trade and is shocked that these people are ungrateful and contentious. He says they quickly forget every kindness and concession and covet more advantages. They are ‘insensible to the blessings showered upon them’. China sells them the useful inventions of her civilisation and they reciprocate by corrupting the morals of the Chinese.

The Emperor concludes with the advice to the Select that, if they find the terms of trade inconvenient, they may leave.

Opium has risen to $1,300 a chest but is in only slight demand.

Saturday 22nd April 1815

Walter S Davidson (the Calcutta merchant) and Alexander Shank are returning to China from the Cape.

Saturday 13th May 1815

Canton – the Indiaman Wyndham has arrived at Calcutta from China on 17th April with news:

The American ships have all left the Pearl river and escaped via the Sunda Straits.

An Imperial rescript has arrived at Canton requiring an investigation of the smaller Hong merchants. It is alleged by our traders that the Edict was procured by the big Hong merchants to perfect their control of trade by eliminating their smaller competitors.

The Select has been unable to get the concessions demanded of the Canton government and Sir George Staunton has left Canton for Macau. Sir Theophilus Metcalfe is to come to Calcutta to brief the Governor-General.

Private letters per Wyndham say the quarrel between the Viceroy and the Select is far more serious than is generally known. The Chinese were offended by our warships coming into the river, killing people and endeavouring to steal a ship. They are uninterested in our squabbles and insist we leave them outside Chinese jurisdiction. They also allege our interference with Chinese servants who are supposed to be entirely under the Canton government’s jurisdiction. The Select responded that the Royal Navy is beyond its control. They conceded the Viceroy’s right to regulate his own people and have withdrawn their pretension to protect Chinese servants (the Ah Yen matter).

On that being agreed there were smiles all round and trade was back to normal until a month later when the Emperor’s Edict arrived, replying to Staunton’s complaint on behalf of the Select. This Edict deplores the infringement of Chinese sovereignty by the Royal Navy. It also orders the dismissal of all junior Hong merchants, who are suspected of assisting the foreigners against their own government for reward. That leaves the trade entirely in the hands of 3-4 prosperous merchants. Pun Ki Qua (who supposedly purchased his resignation a few years ago with $3 million Spanish) has been called out of retirement to sort everything out.

Our defence is that we patronise the small Hongs to spread business and deter price-fixing. This has resulted in their all becoming indebted to the Company’s ship officers on their privileged trade. We had expected they would trade through and pay off their debts in instalments but now they are dismissed they have no trade and no income and our debts may be worthless. The Select professes a concern that the few remaining prosperous Hongs will become prey to venal officials and the costs of doing business will increase. The Select is particularly fearful of the big Hongs’ proposal to buy the entire cargo of each ship in turns. This would depress the price of our cotton and opium and might even balance the trade.

The Emperor castigates Staunton for lese majeste and requests his arrest (hence his departure for Macau). Until now we have considered Staunton as our trump-card in the poker game we play with the Viceroy. The Select felt it was incumbent on them to do something and, now the season’s tea has been shipped-off, they have stopped trade.[61]

A country trader based at Canton has advised its Calcutta Agents to send no cargo for a year and see what happens. Another says Staunton has been ordered out of China.

Saturday 27th May 1815

Bombay, 27th May – the Company fleet for China came into port from London today bringing 80 Chinese – 40 in Vansittart and 40 in Marquis Camden.

Canton Register Vol 5 No 18 – Friday 16thNovember 1832

Note on the 1814-1815 Nepal War:

This provided the first occasion for British and Chinese negotiators to come into direct contact. At commencement the Nepal King applied to Peking for help.

During the first government of Lord Cornwallis (Governor-General from 1786 – 1793), the Gurkhas invaded Tibet and plundered the palace of the Teeshoo Lama at Jigurchee. A Chinese army was sent to punish them and the Gurkhas withdrew. The Chinese General then proposed through the Amban at Lhasa that the British should cooperate in a simultaneous attack on Nepal. This was declined and the Chinese proceeded alone, obtaining a victory in the Tingren desert which brought the Gurkhas to submission. Since then Nepal is considered as a Chinese tributary nation and a legation travels annually from Kathmandu to Peking.

When the Anglo-Nepalese war commenced in 1814 Gurkha soldiers told Peking the dispute arose from our demand for access to the passes through Himachul which they, as faithful allies, had refused. Then the Chinese Resident at Lhasa sent in a long report to Peking which, relying on a British denial of such a demand, assumed its opposite. China then sent an army to Nepal but it arrived after our war was concluded.

In September 1816 the Sikkim Rajah forwarded a letter from Lhasa to Calcutta in Persian from a Chinese named Shee Chuen Chang (the Amban) acting on behalf of the Lhasa government and requesting to know British intentions.

At the same time a Chinese force arrived at Jigurchee and the Gurkhas asked Britain for help, in case the Chinese wanted more than had previously been agreed. Our Indian government offered no support to Nepal and replied accordingly to Shee in Lhasa. This satisfied the Chinese but the British remained uncertain of Nepal’s position. The Gurkhas met with the Chinese and requested Chinese help to remove the English trading station at Kathmandu saying they suspected the merchants were actually soldiers. Shee noted that Nepal had agreed by treaty to receive the trading station.

He noted that Nepal had said the British wanted access to the Khoten passes to invade China but, had they really intended invasion, he was quite sure they would use another route.

Shee supposed the Gurkhas could raise 200,000 soldiers but asked how much money they had? They replied 500,000 Rupees.

The Chinese then withdrew their troops from Jigurchee and Lhasa but they did tell the British Governor-General at Calcutta that they would like the Kathmandu Residency removed:

“the young Nepali King is inexperienced and suspicious. It would be a friendly gesture to China to withdraw your Resident.”

Saturday 22nd July 1815

The Lady Barlow has arrived at Calcutta from China bringing letters from Macau and Canton up to 11th April:

A letter of late March says the dispute between the Select and the Provincial government has subsided but gives no explanation. The Select had threatened a stoppage of trade but a continuous arrival of ships with cargo rather damaged their credibility. Some prohibitory Edicts against opium have slowed that market and, whilst the merchants are asking $1,320 a chest, it is only nominal as the Chinese have closed the markets in both Macau and at Whampoa.

In late February the Chinese official at Casa Branca, who supervises the Portuguese in Macau, came down to that city and arrested all the major opium dealers. They thought it was a sting and offered money which seems to have angered him more. They have confessed their involvement in opium distribution (a crime) and identified their western suppliers. They have been banished to Ili as slaves of the garrison.[62]

Since then some speculators sold a few chests in Macau to exploit the unmet demand and some of them were caught too. It is absurd for the officials to try to stop this trade because the people will have their opium – its like requiring a western nation to forego alcohol. We have 700 chests remaining in Macau but surveillance is so close we cannot get it out of the warehouses without the risk of discovery and arrest. When this year’s opium arrives we will store it on the ships for better security.[63]

Cotton is not selling well either and, since the departure of the Company’s fleet, the factories at Canton have become quiet. The small Hongs continue to have cashflow difficulties. If they are allowed to trade through they should pay-off their debts in seven years. If they are bankrupted, we will all lose heavily.

Sir Theophilus Metcalfe has arrived at Calcutta on Lady Barlow. He is here to obtain a shipment of silver for the Select at Canton. The stoppage of trade, the continuing absence of the Americans and now the effective suppression of opium distribution have combined to deny the Company its usual source of silver by diminishing the sale of its Bills. The galleon from Acapulco is due at Manila about now and that should help alleviate the silver shortage.

Saturday 19th August 1815

The Day, 18th April – Now he is reinstated in his sovereignty, the Prince of Orange has chartered a company to have the exclusive Dutch trade in tea from China. The VOC became bankrupt several years ago.[64] He says China-trade requires great capital and cannot be left to private merchants – he clearly knows about the artificial market we have created in China.

The new Dutch Company has a guaranteed monopoly for 25 years and pays 5% tax on all tea imports to the Netherlands. A draw-back of tax is available on re-export. The initial capital of the Company is 8,000 shares of 1,000 guilders each. A Board of five Directors and a Secretary will operate the business.

Saturday 18th November 1815

Directors’ letter of 18th May 1815 – Company employees of the China factory are prohibited from trading for their own benefit as Agents with effect from 1st October 1816.

After that date all private agency business conducted under the Company’s licence will be conducted by two members of the factory acting under the direct supervision of the Select. The commission derived from this Agency trade will in future be shared by all the Company’s supercargoes in China.

Saturday 30th December 1815

Letter from Canton, 6th October – The Wyndham (Nicholl) has sunk but all the cargo of opium and 1,500 bales of the cotton was salvaged. Most of the rest should be recovered too. Our staples are selling well – cotton is 13.5 Taels a bale and opium is selling at $1,480 a chest. There are 20 Company ships at Whampoa that will sail with the winter monsoon in January. Several country ships are also in port.

The Americans recently commenced to supply Turkish opium to the Chinese. The first shipment sold at $1,100 per picul and the second, which was larger, at $770. Five more American ships are on their way here with further supply from Smyrna. This will diminish the price we are able to get for Bengal opium. There is another strange discrepancy in this market – Bengal and Bombay cotton attract different prices, the former getting ¾ Tael more on average.[65]


1816 – Whole year missing in BL copy

1817 – Whole year missing in BL copy


Saturday 3rd January 1818

Letter from Canton, 2nd October 1817 – All the ships of this season have arrived safely at Whampoa. Bombay cotton was selling at over 13 Taels but has now declined to 12.3 Taels. Chinese goods for export are all expensive.

The Select has opened its sale of Bills on Calcutta and is offering 205 Sicca Rupees for every $100 silver dollars.

The new Hoppo is enforcing the ban on exports of Sycee silver and we may have difficulty removing the balance of our trade from China this year.

There are six American ships at Whampoa but no other foreign ships.

Saturday 3rd January 1818

Just before the Helen left Macau, all the Captains of ships in port individually addressed the Select on the new Hoppo’s plan to search foreign ships prior to issuing the Port Clearance certificate. He is looking for illegal exports of sycee. They ask the Select whether they may resist the Chinese authorities by force. The Select’s reply was still awaited when the Helen sailed.

Saturday 10th January 1818

Letter from Canton, 1st November – two French warships are in the China Seas sailing to Cochin China with presents for the King. It is supposed they intend to renew the relationship that existed between the countries before the Revolution.

The Select is concerned at the increasing numbers of merchants from India who remain in China after their ships leave. The European merchants are not allowed to do this and the Parsees and Armenians should be similarly restricted. Both the Select and the Provincial government are dissatisfied with these all-year residents of the factories at Canton. It is supposed that the Company will enforce its Regulations and remove them.

Saturday 21st February 1818

The Friendship (Horwood) arrived Bombay from China on 14th February. Cotton is a little lower; opium is $1,350 a chest. H Magniac arrived by this ship.

Saturday 7th March 1818

Indian Government Gazette, 19th January – The Chinese are fortifying the river access to Canton. They frankly wonder if the next Company ships to arrive will be bringing goods or soldiers (the ejection of Amherst’s embassy to Peking).

Cotton is selling at 12½ Taels but we are in no hurry and are holding out for more. The rumour is that the cotton crop on the Yangtse River has at least partially failed this year and nankeens will be in short supply.

Saturday 21st March 1818

Amherst’s failed embassy to China did produce something. He was able to form an opinion of the present Manchu Emperor whom he characterises as ‘impetuous’ and ‘capricious’, which characteristics were increased by constant intoxification (not alcohol). He was extremely desirous of the ambassador’s performance of the kow-tow – it is the Chinese way.

We saw the Chinese army is composed of four types of soldier – matchlock men, archers (usually mounted), spearmen and ‘tigers’ (the Emperor’s bodyguard, armed with short swords).

The Chinese Imperial revenue is collected in kind, like our tythes, by a fleet of 20,000 junks that sail the rivers and canals to the furthest parts of China and return on the change of the monsoon.

We obtained much useful survey details of the Gulf of Chih Li and the Korean coast. We visited the Loo Choo Islands and recorded their productions. Editor’s Note – Loo Choo; (Liu Chiu in Mandarin, Lau Kau Cantonese, Ryukyu Japanese) is a chain of six main islands extending from Taiwan to Japan. At this time it was tributary to both China and Japan. The name was learned from the residents.

Saturday 28th March 1818

The Bombay Castle (Cleland) left China 22nd January and arrived here 21st March. Cotton has fallen in price and the extra supplies sent out recently will keep it low. The Chinese are canny traders and never buy on impulse.

Saturday 4th April 1818

Asiatic Mirror, 4th March – The Rev Robert Morrison is publishing 750 copies of a Chinese dictionary at Macau. It will be in three parts; first English to Chinese arranged alphabetically, second Chinese to English arranged by radicals and third English to Chinese. The Company as his employer is taking 100 copies. He has spent 10 years on its preparation and is asking for 20 guineas per copy but one may buy just the English to Chinese dictionary (Part 1) at a reduced price. There are about 40,000 characters in the dictionary including many classical quotations and popular phrases. His agents are – Calcutta M/s Colvins Bazett & Co, Madras Arbuthnot D’Monte Mc Taggart & Co, Bombay Forbes & Co.

Morrison has previously published a Chinese grammar, a collection of Chinese dialogues and a philological examination of China – geography, population, government, religion, customs, etc. All his works are published by the Company.

Saturday 18th April 1818

India Gazette, 9th March – 80,000 bales of Indian cotton remained unsold at Canton in January. British merchants say the opium price is softened by imports of Turkish by the Americans. They seem to be affecting this important market.

Saturday 6th June 1818

The Ganges arrived Calcutta from China on 5th May. She reports cotton is selling at 13 Taels, opium at $1,350. Some counterfeit sycee has been discovered in the market – its about 75 – 80% silver.

Saturday 20th June 1818

The Syren has arrived at Calcutta from Macau on 28th May bringing letters up to 4th April. She says the quantities of Indian cotton held by the Hongs at that time were:


Chun Qua

Mow Qua

Poon Qua

How Qua

Pun Ki Qua

Kin Qua

Pow Qua

Cow Qua



















In addition to this stock of 60,000 bales, the Resource, David Clark and Exmouth are bringing another 10,000 bales. This has depressed prices below 12 Taels.

The opium stock at Whampoa has been sold and only a fortnight’s supply remains in the hands of the brokers. They will in future have to buy in Macau where prices are now $1,300 for Patna and $800 for Malwa.

Sycee is selling at a premium of 2-3% over its silver value. Its more difficult to export now due to increased vigilance of the Customs. There is also the perceived risk of counterfeits in the market.[66]

Saturday 15th August 1818

Quarterly Review, No 34 – McLeod, who was a sailor on HMS Alceste taking the Amherst embassy to China has written a book of his travels:

They dropped the mission at the Pei Ho and sailed north. They landed near the great wall. The people were friendly but declined to trade saying they did not recognise the Spanish dollar’s value. They seemed to find the foreigners had nothing that they wanted.

The expedition continued to Korea. The Chinese interpreter had no Korean and the Koreans had only a few characters of Chinese. We received a paper from the Korean headman saying in Chinese “who are you and why have you come” but we only got it translated when we returned to Canton. The headman indicated he would be executed for permitting us to land. He wept.

We found over a hundred islands down the coast but the women ran away with their children and the men signalled us to go away.

We continued to the Kingdom of Loo Choo where one of our sailors died and was buried on 15th October 1816. All the Loo Choo people we met were polite and gentle. They deplored our shooting birds and said they preferred to hear the birds singing around their houses. They offered us some chicken as alternative. The Loo Choo Islands became known to the Chinese in about 600 AD and received the written language in 1187 AD. They became tributary to China in 1378 AD and have sent a mission to Peking every two years since then. The big Loo Choo island is about 50 miles long and 12 wide.

The Loo Choo King wrote a letter to the British Regent in Chinese but this was lost when HMS Alceste foundered. He declined to speak to us as we had no official character. The people are small, the men averaging 5’ 2” tall, and strongly built. All their cows, goats and pigs were similarly diminutive. They have the skin colour of Mediterranean peoples. We left an English bull and cow for them to breed and also gave them, and showed them how to plant, potatoes. We saw tea, sugar, rice, oranges and limes all growing on the island.

Saturday 19th September 1818

The latest class of students at Fort William Language School have graduated. They now study Sanskrit, Hindi, Bengali and Persian.

Wellesley’s grand vision of a centre of oriental learning has been abandoned.

Chinese language instruction has long been unavailable at Fort William. Its now done at Malacca for better control.

Saturday 14th November 1818

The Helen (Richardson), which is owned by M/s Remington Crawford & Co of Bombay and sailed several weeks ago from Bombay for China, has encountered heavy weather and put in to Penang. Several bales of cotton were thrown overboard to lighten the ship and a further 400 bales had to be off-loaded at Penang to permit repairs to her fastenings and caulking. The ship was expected to continue its voyage on about 10th September.

The passengers are China free traders – Robertson, Magniac and Dent. They are all booked to return to China.

Saturday 28th November 1818

The French ship La Caroline has arrived at Calcutta bringing Jacobus Leonardo Macsulla en route to Macau. He is appointed Lord Bishop to China.

Saturday 12th December 1818

The Juliana (Kidd) has arrived at Calcutta from China with $800,000 in silver. This will relieve the scarcity of money in circulation at Calcutta. She reports Sir Theophilus Metcalfe is confirmed as President of the Select.

The Hong merchants have received an order to present 300,000 Taels to the Emperor and propose to levy a new tax on cotton to fund it. The Select has protested. Cotton and opium prices have fallen.

Saturday 27th February 1819

Madras Courier, 9th February – everything is reportedly quiet in China. The Chinese are rebuilding the fort that HMS Alceste bombarded and destroyed. They are also building new forts now they know their protections are inadequate.

Saturday 13th March 1819

The Andromeda (Almeida) has arrived at Calcutta from Macau. She reports that opium prices have been under pressure and Baboom, fronting a group of rich Chinese, has bought all the opium in the ships at Whampoa at $800 per chest. It is thought he intends to return the opium monopoly to Macau.

Apart from Baboom’s huge holding, we have had 47 chests landed from the Morning Star and 27 chests from the Portuguese ships – a total import of 70 chests for January 1819.

Saturday 17th April 1819

The free trader Partridge (Kellie) left Liverpool on 1st December 1818 and has just arrived at Bombay bringing Wm Jardine as passenger.

Saturday 8th May 1819

The Mentor (Parkyns) sailed from Calcutta to China on 10th April

Saturday 26th June 1819

The Lord Castlereagh (Briggs) left Bombay on 20th June carrying Framjee Muncherjee and six other Parsees to China. The John Bannerman (Hunter) also left the same day carrying McCarthy to China.

Saturday 18th September 1819

Rev Atwell Lake, the Chaplain at Penang, is posted to Chaplain of Canton.

Saturday 16th October 1819

Letter from Canton, 7th June 1819 – the market for Indian goods is low and all exports are comparatively expensive. In late May, the Hongs were offering 11½ Taels for cotton and do not believe us when we tell them little cotton will be shipped to Canton this year. As a result the supercargoes are off-loading the arriving cotton into the Hong merchants’ warehouses but withholding it from sale until the remaining ships have arrived and the total cotton supply is apparent to everyone. There is 45,000 bales of Bengal and Bombay cotton in the Hongs’ warehouses so far.

Opium is hardly selling – Bengal is $1,000 and Malwa $670.

The Dutch have inflated the price of exports at Batavia. Sugar is $10 and coffee $32 the picul. Some ships are sailing up to Manila to seek for an alternative supply but it is rumoured this year’s harvest there was small.

Nevertheless, Manila is in expectation of the imminent arrival of the galleon from Acapulco which this year is expected to bring $11 millions in silver and copper. That will lubricate the market.

Saturday 30th October 1819

The Shah Byramgore (Kiddle) has arrived from Batavia and China. She reports there are two opium ships trading at Whampoa – Syren and Mentor. A third is loading for Suez.

Some Americans and English free traders were waiting for sugar cargoes but the price in early July was unworkable at $8.30 a picul. Silk is only average quality this season and expensive owing to great American demand. Bombay cotton is selling at 11 Taels 7 Mace; opium is $950.

Saturday 4th December 1819

A report from Frankfurt dated June 1819 says Tsar Alexander intends to unite Tartary to his domains and establish a direct communication with China across the common border.

Saturday 11th December 1819

The Charlotte arrived in port yesterday. She left Whampoa 20th August. The restrictions on foreigners at Canton are almost entirely taken off and smuggling is again the preferred occupation. Cotton is selling at 12 Taels but is not expected to hold as three American ships are bringing supplies they could not sell at Liverpool. Company opium is up at $1,300 and Malwa or Turkey are both selling at $900 the picul.

Saturday 25th December 1819

Canton, 13th August – Robert Berry, formerly of Port Louis, Mauritius and for the last 12 years of Canton as the Swedish and (since amalgamation) Norwegian Consul for India and China, has commenced a House of Agency with Sir Andrew Lyungstedt under the style M/s Berry & Lyungstedt.

Sir Andrew has 20 years experience as the supercargo of the Swedish factory in China. He is a Swede. Berry is an accredited Swedish diplomat and is accordingly exempt from the Company’s restrictions on Englishmen.[67]

Saturday 25th December 1819

Sir Theophilus Metcalfe, President of the Select in China, is returning to London on Lowther Castle. His job is assumed by Urmston.

Saturday 25th December 1819

22nd December – W. S. Davidson has come to Bombay from China on Syren.

Saturday 1st January 1820

The Sullemany left the Canton river on 6th November and arrived Bombay via Singapore and Malacca on 30th December bringing Wm Jardine back. He has spent the summer of 1819 in China.

Saturday 15th January 1820

London Morning Chronicle, 28th June 1819 – Mr Assey’s pamphlet says the American merchants to China in 1817/18 season exported $7 million in silver and employed 16,000 tons of shipping in their trade to that country. British trade to China in the same year took $6.5 million in goods and employed 20,000 tons of shipping.

The Americans supply tea to both America and Europe and their China-exports are bought for silver. British purchases of China-goods are bartered for British manufactures and Indian productions. In 1817 / 18 we took away the balance of over $1 million in silver.

The Dutch China-trade is operated mainly by Americans who are allowed to bring teas to bonded warehouses for re-export by their Dutch principals. It is reported that there are totally 120,000 chests of tea at Rotterdam and Amsterdam awaiting re-export.

The Company chartered 19,278 tons of shipping from London ship-owners for the China-trade of 1817/18. Adjusting for their quaint tonnage calculation, the gross tonnage figure should be increased 15% to approximate actual carrying capacity. The Company pays half-freight on any excess shipped.

For the 1818 / 19 season the Company chartered 27,831 tons (on their own calculation of capacity) which appears to suggest a big push on China trade. This British tonnage excludes the country trade from Indian ports (principally Bombay and Calcutta) to China which trade has become extensive and is increasing.

It is a common prediction amongst China-traders that on the expiration of the Company’s present Charter, the trade will be opened as it has been to India. The opening of India has not been without distress. Overall the free trade may be marginally profitable but it has glutted England with India goods and ruined almost half of the participants.

Saturday 11th March 1820

India Gazette, 14th February – Calcutta merchants have received letters from Manila reporting the arrival of the Carmo, Santa Rita and Activo from New Spain with $2 millions in bar silver. This will reanimate the market which has been slow.

Saturday 18th March 1820

The American frigate USS Congress is at Macau. Her captain is disappointed that the honours paid to British warships are not offered to him.

Saturday 8th April 1820

The Carmo left China on 27th January and has arrived at Penang. She reports cotton was selling very slowly, opium was $1,250 a chest and pepper $17 per picul.

Saturday 8th April 1820

Letter from Ludhiana, 24th February – Moorcroft has gone to Srinegar and Nahan via the Dhoon. He will avoid Nickteeghaut as the Chinese control immigration there and will instead travel via Kooloyone to Ladakh. The Chief of that area is independent of China. Our party has killed three tigers and a bear.

Moorcroft wrote from Ghurwal to the Asiatic Society on 31st December that the priest at the temple of Oonkeemuth, a dependency of Budreenath, has allowed him to copy some of the temple records.[68]

Saturday 24th June 1820

Letter from Burma:

It is reported that numerous industrious Chinese have occupied the border lands with Burma and have commenced cotton farming. The Chinese are favoured by the new King.

An attempt by a British trader at Rangoon to buy Burmese cotton for Penang failed when the Chinese combined against him. All their production is sent overland and sold in China.

Saturday 29th July 1820

Manila – the goods recently sent to Spanish South America have returned a quantity of silver which has released greater commercial activity here.

Saturday 23rd September 1820

HMS Conway has been commissioned by Captain Basil Hall and is fitting-out in England for a survey of the coast of the Loo Choo Islands.

Saturday 21st October 1820

A Chinese known in the Bombay community as Ah Hang and who works in the treasury of Catchatoor Johannes has been convicted of larceny at the Sessions.

Saturday 16th December 1820

Letters received via the Shaw Byramgore (Crockett) from Canton:

  • 5th October – When the Chinese had been convinced of our accounts of the failure of the Bombay cotton crop for this year, they started to buy and the price moved up to 16 or 17 Taels a picul. Consignees assumed they might move higher and refused sales at that level but they then fell back to 13 – 13½ Taels.

In fact the cotton failure at Bombay had induced a few of the largest merchants to attempt a speculation which was ended by the arrival of Sulimany from Bengal with the first of the crop from that province. We were all expecting the failure at Bombay to have at least reduced the harvest in Bengal but already 31,000 bales have arrived and it now seems there is another 25,000 bales due here soon.

13 –14 Taels was initially offered for two Bombay shipments but the holders held-out for more and they ultimately sold at 11 – 12 Taels. We are at a loss to explain the general lack of demand by the Chinese. Normally the demand is such that, if the Chinese harvest is poor, the market for Indian increases and vice versa. Bombay supply is less affected by this dynamic because it is cheaper than Bengal.

The market is very slow, particularly in Straits produce. Pepper is down to $10 and 70,000 piculs have been imported this season, double the usual annual consumption (it’s the returns of London pepper stock). Other Straits items are similarly depressed.

  • Canton 15th December – This is the worst trading season we have had since we came here. Bombay may have little cotton to supply but Bengal alone can supply more than this market demands. The market had anticipated a total import from India of about 25,000 bales. In fact we now expect 60,000 and once that became known the price fell to 13 Taels for new Cutchowra. Even then we have to be imaginative in forcing the sales. If we receive a similar quantity next season, prices will predictably reduce further – probably to 10 – 11 Taels a picul. Sgd Q.

PS – there is an American frigate at Lintin.

Saturday 30th December 1820

Bengal Hurkaru, 8th December – The Lord Minto left China on 8th October and reports that information was received at Canton just prior to departure that the Ka Hing Emperor had died whilst visiting Tartary.

Saturday 20th January 1821

Manila, 23rd October 1820 – On 1st October Manila was struck by a typhoon. The deluge raised Laguna Lake 10 feet and swelled the Sanelhateo River. A slight ground tremor followed. On 3rd October the lakes, rivers and tanks overflowed. On 5th October a epidemic spread amongst the Filipinos in consequence of which the foreign community was accused of poisoning the water supply. It appears the accusation took root because none of the Spanish or foreign community was affected by the epidemic. A French doctor who visited the affected districts to minister to the people was accused of poisoning his patients. A quantity of laudanum that he customarily prescribed was tested on a dog and the dog died, shortly followed by the doctor.

On 9th October the mob resolved to kill all foreigners and the Spanish garrison supported them. Barretto’s house was first attacked but spared when the crowd learned he was married to a Spanish woman. Another house in the same street was next. It contain a French captain and his supercargo and two Englishmen – Wilson and Nicoll. They hid in an upper room. The soldiery broke-in and forced the upper room door whereupon the occupants fired their matchlocks without hitting anyone. The soldiers returned the volley with better success and all four died. Next, the house of the Armenian merchant Isaiah Zecharia was attacked but a Spanish magistrate was induced to intervene and it was spared. The mob then attended Stevenson’s house where all seven occupants (Stevenson’s two Danish business partners Felish & Dunsfield and five Frenchmen) were strangled and decapitated.

The uprising then deteriorated into three days of looting, for which the Chinese community at Eseotta was particularly targeted. Eighty lost their lives and every Chinese lost most of his property. The riot was confined to the suburbs and the City of Manila remained safe. The Governor Mariana Fernandez Folgueras regained control late on 11th October and the area became peaceful. So far as the western community is concerned 26 died and $300,000 was plundered. Many hundreds of Filipinos have died of plague-like symptoms.

J H Campbell, commander of HMS Dauntless, later arrived and put the Governor on notice that the murderers of Englishmen must be identified and punished. A list of European victims is published in the report.

Saturday 20th January 1821

The Lord Castlereagh (Briggs) arrived from China on 17th January bringing Thomas Dent to Bombay.

Saturday 20th January 1821

Viceroy Yuen of the Two Kwong and Hoppo Ah of Canton have jointly addressed the rice shortages:

“Since April 1820 there have been fluctuations in the rice supply. We remitted the port duties on all foreign ships bringing rice to Canton until the 10th moon. Now, in spite of fair harvests this summer and autumn, the 10th moon approaches, the shortages continue, and only four foreign ships have brought rice.

We now extend the concession to the 3rd moon of the coming year. As before this licence does not permit the beneficiary to load a duty-free export cargo.”

Saturday 10th February 1821

Madras Gazette, 27th January 1821 – a letter from Macau to a merchant here says the China market has become unprofitable. In May pepper was $20, in August it was $12. Cotton is selling at 12½ Taels a picul bale which approximates the cost to buy in India. European piecegoods have been over-imported and chintz, which costs $16, can be had at Canton for $8. European amber sells in London at 5 Guineas (£5.5.0d) but here is difficult to sell at $9 (£2.5.0d).

The China shopmen with whom we deal are all impoverished as are the Americans. If the trade is thrown open, as appears likely, our service will be annihilated. Only opium is profitable.

The market that flourishes is Singapore. Malacca has suffered consequentially. 18 months ago there were between 100 – 200 Chinese in Singapore; in August 1820 there were 5,000.

Saturday 10th March 1821

Letter from Macau, 29th December (copied from Bengal Hurkaru of 12th February):

One of the officers in the foreign fleet has quite inexcusably shot a Chinese. The young officer was commanding a cutter up one of the branches of the river to get water. Farmers on the riverbanks were abusing the foreigners in the familiar way. He became irritated and fired pea-shot injuring two children. The temper of the farmers was aroused and the officer fired ball killing one of them. There is general agreement on the circumstances and the officer has fled to one of the British warships in Macau roads.

The Chinese insisted on the culprit being handed over for justice and sent an official party to search the Duke of York, which was the young officer’s ship. As luck would have it, the butcher on Duke of York, who has been depressed, had chosen that day to cut his throat, and it was immediately suggested that he was the culprit trying to evade justice.

The Select Committee compensated the dead farmer’s family and the Canton officials were apprised of and approved the plan. It seems the Chinese public have some suspicion that the matter has been glossed-over and they are not entirely satisfied.

As regards trade there has been an epidemic up-country which has limited the numbers of available coolies to bring the teas down and they are not yet all arrived. As a result our own cargoes are only slowly being sent up to Canton for exchange.

Saturday 24th March 1821

The Juliana (Webster) has arrived Calcutta having left China on 16th January at which date most of the Indiamen had left for London. All trade at Canton is slow except opium which has risen to $1,750 per chest. Cotton is a drag at 11½ Taels per picul.

Saturday 9th June 1821

Thomas Dent returned to China per the free trader Sulimany (Carter) on 2nd June.

Saturday 29th September 1821

Every British-registered vessel is prohibited from going to China. The Board of Control in London is not the authority to issue such licences, which can only be obtained in India where their issue is restricted to ship-owners known to the Company.

A Committee of Trade established by the House of Commons in 1820 under Lansdowne has opined that this licensing system does not provide any benefit to British trade. A fee is charged in every case.

The Committee noted that the Company employs Collectors in the small ports along the Malabar and Coromandel coasts and believes a free trade to these ports might be introduced without damaging the Company’s monopoly.

The Committee was persuaded that the Indian natives have the buying power and the inclination to use British products. The effects of allowing the free trade to enter the Indian market at the three main ports have been great. The value of British goods sent to India in 1815 was £870,177 and in 1819 was £3,052,741.

The committee was perplexed by the Company’s requirement that only large ships be permitted to trade to India. This was included in the legislation and its effect was to prevent free traders from approaching close to the numerous small ports of Asia. The Persian, Arab and American trade to India was done in small ships. A suggestion that large ships are better able to deal with pirates is not supported by insurance rates which are the same for both sizes. Since the war the French have had moderate success in opening trade with Cochin China and we ourselves have become familiar with the trading peoples of S E Asia – the Bugis for example. Singapore contained about 200 people at the time of its lease to us. Within 3 months it had a population of 3,000 and now it exceeds 10,000. 175 ships entered and left Singapore in the first two months of this year.

The China trade is non-existent for British merchants outside the restrictive terms of the Company. Consequently, the Committee has looked at the experience of foreign countries in China-trade. This is mainly the American trade to Canton. There is no suggestion from the Company that the American China-trade has damaged their monopoly. The Americans use the small ships that British traders also prefer. The Company says the Americans are drawn to Canton because of the protection the Company gives to the trade of that port. It is difficult to comprehend why this should be withheld from the British free trader.

Lansdowne noted that the Company disapproved the American practice of distributing a share of the profits of each voyage amongst the seamen on their ships (which might give rise to a similar claim by British sailors), but this refers exclusively to the fur trade, which is only part of the American trade, and British fur traders do the same.

The Company has also alluded to the danger of disturbances at Whampoa when sailors are released ashore after a 6-month voyage but the Committee found that disturbances were mostly related to the practice of some Masters of Indiamen of letting their crews ashore in large groups. When the groups were reduced and supervised, the problem was alleviated. The Committee believes that the free trade could well be accommodated at Canton under a Consul or a suitably empowered Company official.

The Report concluded with the observation that a Bill was pending from last session for regulating the trade of British merchants with India and only awaited the conclusion of this Committee’s work before being introduced.

Saturday 3rd November 1821

The number of foreign flowers and vegetables that have been introduced to Britain has markedly increased. In Elizabeth’s reign there were totally 578; it was about the same for the two Charles’ and Cromwell; James II received 41; William & Mary 298; Anne 230; George I 182 and George II 1770 but George III received specimens of 6,756 exotic plants during his long reign.

(NB – a good number of George III’s import of flowers and vegetables was derived from a long visit of the King’s Gardener to Canton. It required the provision of an Indiaman fitted-out as an arboretum to bring all the plants back to Kew)[69]

Saturday 10th November 1821

Bombay Notice, 3rd November – the prohibition on export to China of metals sold at the Company’s monthly auctions in this Presidency is rescinded.

Saturday 24th November 1821

Recent letters from China say opium is selling well but everything else is loss-making. There are 80,000 bales of Indian cotton in the Hong merchants’ warehouses awaiting sale up-country. Most of the Hongs will lose substantially on these investments.

Some has been offered in pawn to release the capital but even 7 Taels is unavailable from the pawn-brokers. The Maitland brought a cotton cargo in the Spring and refused 11 Tael 7 Mace in March but more recently offered the whole lot to How Qua at 9 Taels and he declined it.

It is expected that the next Indian cotton crop will exceed 96,000 bales and we really have no idea to whom we can sell it.

Saturday 15th December 1821

The China-ships that left the Pearl River and Macau in early October are arriving at Bombay. A letter from Canton dated 28th September has information:

  • The Americans are in dispute with the Canton government over the death of a Chinese woman alongside one of their ships. A sailor on deck threw a wine bottle at her and she fell in the river. Her body was later recovered and her skull was deeply fractured. It is feared the Americans will surrender the sailor to Chinese justice.
  • The first 9-10 ships from Bombay were able to sell their cotton at 9 – 10½ Taels a bale whereas the Company bartered its cotton at 11 – 11.4 Taels. Cotton brought from England sells at 9½ Taels and Bengal at 9 – 10 Taels.
  • The opium market has done very well in consequence of a combination of the few large holders of stock. An unusual feature this year is that most of the Bengal supply is with the Portuguese. They are getting $1,750 a chest. The strength of the combination reduces as the time approaches for the China traders to remit funds to Bengal in time for the next auction. The auctions commence early each year (in December) as soon as the winter monsoon brings the first ships and the proceeds of China-trade back to Calcutta.
  • Malwa has done comparatively badly. There are a large number of holders who compete amongst themselves (their capital is small) and they all want to sell. It fell to $1,020 at the lowest and has recovered to $1,050 now.

Saturday 15th December 1821

Indo-Chinese Gleaner, Penang; July edition:

1/ The new Manchu Emperor (To Kwong) has placed Tan Ken She, whom he married on his first wife’s death, on the throne as Empress.

2/ Duke Ho has been appointed to the command of the Fuk Chow garrison in Fukien.

3/ The Hoppo at Canton has been told to send large sums to Hupeh, Hunan and Kweichow provinces for the relief of the people. The Emperor has remitted taxes to the inhabitants of those provinces since an overflow of the Yellow River but the civil service still needs to be paid. The payments to be made to each province are 200,000, 150,000 and 410,000 Taels respectively.

4/ A Chiu Chow man Wong Chang Ching has come to Peking to petition the Emperor. His family was solicited 4 years ago to join in a vendetta primarily involving two leading families of the town wherein he lived. His family declined to do so and since then they have been promiscuously attacked by both of the warring clans. Ten of the males in Wong’s family have been killed; twenty men and women were captured, their eyes and ears removed and their feet crushed. Thirty houses belonging to family members have been pulled down. 300 acres of family land had been appropriated by others. The Wong’s ancestral temple has been destroyed, their ancestral graves opened and defiled, the supply of mountain water to their houses and fields and their irrigation works are damaged.

Repeated complaints to local officials elicited four military raids which had all been expensive and unproductive and had mainly served to embolden the violent men who have now organised themselves into a society with four of them proclaiming themselves to be Kings. The Viceroy of the Two Kwong has offered a reward of 1,000 pieces of gold for the arrest of the leaders but without any apparent effect.

Wong was sent to Canton with Imperial instructions to the Viceroy and Governor to attend personally to his case.

5/ Sung, the high official who delighted Macartney, was made personal adviser to the new To Kwong Emperor during December 1820 (the first month of his reign). The old fellow so irritated his new royal master with honourable advice that he was ‘promoted’ to Adjutant General of Jehol, the Manchu homeland and site of the Imperial family’s summer palace, and sent off to ‘cool his heels’ there.

Another Privy Councillor named Ku Shan protested the transfer, noting Sung is widely respected throughout the civil service but such advice from another experienced Councillor only served to anger the young King. He has told his Council that they may speak their minds and, if he likes the advice, he will follow it; if not, he will not. He has reminded Ku Shan that the prerogative for appointing and transferring officials rests with Him alone and has ordered an enquiry into Ku Shan’s recent acts to see what failures of duty can be discovered.

6/ Kwang, the official who led Amherst to Peking, has been appointed a Judge of that city.

7/ Yu Tsin, the new Emperor’s uncle, raped a 13 year-old palace serving girl during the mourning period for the Ka Hing Emperor. The child committed suicide and her father complained. The Imperial Family itself sits in judgment on its own family members but had difficulty dealing with this case. It was felt inappropriate to either punish him corporally or send him to the frontier. Yu Tsin has been told to remain in his house for three years.

8/ During Ka Hing’s reign the tomahawk exercise by the Manchu army was discontinued but To Kwong is skilled at it and it has now been restored.

9/ Canton reports of 24th March note a numerous armed criminal gang operating at Whampoa. They killed a pawnbroker whilst robbing his shop and have also robbed money changers (the silver refiners who act as banks in China). Wang, the Whampoa magistrate reported their depredations to the Governor who sent soldiers to seize the culprits.

10/ Trade between China and Russia is greater than thought. A report of July 1819 from the Siberian frontier says Russia imports 66,000 half-picul chests of tea annually (worth £1½ million at Canton prices) and pays for them in furs.

Saturday 5th January 1822

The latest arrivals from China (Partridge, Lord Castlereagh and Charlotte) say the American who dropped the wine-bottle on the sampan-lady has been executed. A report dated 23rd September says the man bought a jar of wine from the woman but thought she had cheated him and threw it back to her. It hit her head, she fell overboard and was eventually pulled-out of the water dead.

The officials demanded he be surrendered for trial. The Americans countered that he sailed under the protection of the American flag and, if he was forcibly removed, they would haul down their flag on the Amelia (the sailor’s ship) and protest to their government. Over the ensuing few days the Captain fired a gun every evening and kept his national flag flying day and night. In the meantime the American traders tried the man themselves and adjudged him ‘not guilty’ but they nevertheless kept him gaoled in irons.

On 4th October, by prior agreement, a judicial official came on board Amelia with some Hong merchants and linguists and held a trial on deck. He declined to hear any evidence from foreign witnesses and received only the testimony of another Chinese woman who had seen something of the incident. On her testimony, he found against the seaman and demanded he be surrendered for punishment. The Americans again said they would abandon the ship before surrendering the man. This astonished the judge and it began to appear that he had been misled into assuming the man would be voluntarily surrendered once his judgment had been issued. He ordered the security merchant for the ship and the Linguist to be chained and took them away.

After this, the Americans somewhat resiled from their earlier robust defence of the seaman. This was assumed from the subsequent cessation of the evening gun-firing and pulling down of the flag each night.

The timing of the event was unfortunate. The Americans had brought silver for trade but had not then commenced. They were not permitted, to buy or sell anything until the matter was resolved. They had this large supply of funds and there were all sorts of valuable Chinese products available to buy, but on the other there was this old seaman who was not even American. The community of Americans at Whampoa, although small, was divided by the event and ultimately, under the pressure of traders from other American ships whose trade was likewise stopped, and upon the assurance of the Hong merchant that no molestation of the sailor would occur, they surrendered the man. He was removed from the ship on 24th October after nearly a month in irons and was severely emaciated when handed-over. The Americans escorted him to Canton that day but did not see him thereafter. Indeed the main concern evinced for him was from the Company’s Select which was anxious about the precedent which this surrender introduced. They formally applied to witness the seaman’s trial and were refused.

The seaman was tried by the Chief Judge of Canton at the Consoo House (from the Cantonese Kung Sor – the office of the combined Hong merchants) three days after his arrival in Canton. The proceedings lasted about 90 minutes. One foreigner managed to get into the back of the Consoo House and saw the chap on his knees before the Judge vigorously protesting his innocence. The Linguist said afterwards that the seaman had acknowledged his guilt but claimed the death was unintended and accidental. The Judge did not publish his award and the Hong merchants continued to be optimistic of a favourable outcome but at 6 am the next morning the seaman was taken out to the execution ground and strangled on the cross (a quick and efficient means of strangulation used in China). The Americans were called to remove the body and that was how his fate became known. He leaves a wife and children in Boston and is said to be one of the many European emigrants who fled to America to start a new life after the Great War.

Canton Register Vol 3 No 20 – Saturday 2ndOctober 1830

Letter to the Editor – A British resident in China has sent a letter to England which has been published and concerns the death of Terranova in 1821. This Italian sailor on an American ship was accused of murdering a Chinese woman.

The letter-writer said Terranova threw down a piece of wood for the woman to place between her sampan and the ship as a fender, but it struck her and her boat. She fell overboard and was drowned. The American captain bravely said that so long as the Stars & Stripes flew over his ship the man would not be surrendered. When the Chinese stopped all American trade until the culprit was surrendered to them, the Captain’s support amongst the American trading community fell away. Terranova was kept in irons by the Captain throughout. This was understood by the Chinese as an indication of his guilt.

Then an understanding with the Hong merchants was reached. The Hong merchants were told that if they attended the ship, they might take Terranova but he would not be ‘surrendered’. Terranova was told by the American officers and supercargo that he merely had to tell the Chinese authorities what he had told them, and the Chinese would recognise his innocence and eventually he would be returned to the vessel. He was taken to the Hong merchants’ Hall (the Consoo) and a 2-3 day trial occurred behind closed doors. British and other foreigners who speak Chinese were refused entry. The Court incrementally discovered areas of agreement in Terranova’s evidence with the requirements for establishing murder in Chinese law. Eventually Terranova agreed to sign his statement by inking his hand and impressing it on the foot of the paper (he was more or less illiterate in English). He was then sentenced to death in Chinese but the decision was not translated. He was awakened early next morning ‘to see the governor’. He did not know the road to the governor’s yamen passes the execution ground into which he was bundled as they passed it. On seeing the cross prepared for his strangulation, he mistook it for a Christian crucifix, lowered his head and crossed himself. He was bound to it and strangled at dawn under the ‘life for a life’ principle that guides Chinese jurisprudence in cases of murder. The American Consul was informed later that morning to collect the body. The Governor reported to the Emperor that greed motivates foreigners and only by stopping their trade could they be brought to consent to justice. The matter was reported to the American government but it raised no complaint.

The Canton Register correspondent says ‘Had this British resident acquainted himself with the true facts of the case, he would have known that Terranova did not throw down a fender. It was an amphora that had previously contained Spanish olives which he threw from the forecastle of the ship for the woman to fill (with unidentified goods). The woman’s body was examined in the presence of the American consul Wilcocks and a hole in her hat was said to match the shape of the amphora’s pointed end – there was no doubt what had occurred. A trial was then held in the ship but Terranova suspected the worst and refused to agree to be handed over. Then American trade was suspended and after three weeks of this, on the traders being given solemn assurances by all members of the Co-Hong that he would receive an open and fair trial, Terranova was persuaded to surrender himself. A slight complication was the fact that the ship had brought a cargo of Turkish and had been lying many months at Whampoa gradually disposing of it (the opium trade was based at Whampoa at that time). Terranova left the ship voluntarily and no-one suggested to him that he would undergo a merely formal examination and be returned. I know the whole business and can identify many witnesses with similar knowledge. There is no benefit to the Company in blaming the American traders for this precedent. We acted in what appeared to be the best interests of all concerned. Our government requires us to comply with the laws of the country in which we reside. Others may take a different view and their governments may uphold their resistance. That is their business. So far as we are concerned the Terranova affair is a matter for Americans alone. Sgd – An American.

(in the next issue the Editor asserts that Terranova had bought something from the woman and lowered the money to her on receipt of which she started to row off. Some unidentified person then threw the jar at her.)

Saturday 19th January 1822

Crommelin’s large collection of Chinese books was presented at the Asiatic Society’s meeting of 13th December at Calcutta. He has just returned from China. Dr Marshman produced a catalogue of the books which are mostly artistic. Crommelin also presented two copies of Morrison’s Chinese Dictionary, a copy of his Chinese Grammar and his View of China.

A short account of the origin and nature of the Portuguese Government at Macau was also included in the collection. This shows the censuses for 1810 and 1813 totalled just over 4,000 Portuguese residents. The figures exclude the military garrison and the clergy. The majority of Portuguese residents are listed as merchants, seafarers and a good many ‘unemployed’ people.

The slave population of Macau is sourced from Mozambique (via the market at Goa) and from Timor. The text indicates the Portuguese pay an annual ground rent to China for their occupation of Macau. No structures (ships or houses) may be built or repaired without Chinese approval. It appears Macau is leased solely as a trading base.

Saturday 9th February 1822

Madras Courier, 22nd January – The Cornwall left Canton on 2nd December and has just arrived at Madras. She reports the Merope and Eugenia, two of the four ships ordered out of the river for selling opium at Whampoa, have now left. The other two – Hooghly and Emily – were delayed departing only because they had to first offload the cargo they had taken-on, Hooghly for New South Wales and Emily for Europe. They left the river in ballast which will be a considerable commercial set-back for their owners / masters.

The principal Hong merchant was demoted to commoner for his role in the matter as Security Merchant of some of these ships. Hong merchants buy official degrees of rank but the Viceroy took his button for this offence. He will have to pay 200,000+ Taels to renew his degree.

The upshot of this is that the foreign merchants are fearful they will have difficulty obtaining Security Merchants for their ships on next arrival.

Meanwhile other trade is depressed. The finest Tinnevelly cotton could be sold only on long credit terms at 10 Taels a bale. Cutchara cotton sold slowly at 7 Taels. The only commodity in demand is opium and prices have held-up well notwithstanding the government’s actions. The difficulty since the Viceroy’s act is in getting the Drug landed – we were selling over the side at Whampoa but no boats will come alongside anymore. The foreign shipping at Whampoa has taken defensive precautions – armed sentries patrol the decks and boarding nets are taken-up at dusk. Asian traditional produce – pepper, betelnut, rattan, tin – still sells well. Ceylon pearls are at a discount. The Cornwall took some Chinese emigrants to Penang on the way back.

Saturday 16th February 1822

The Glenelg (Glover) has returned to Bombay from China bringing Wm Jardine. She carries some letters to local merchants, dated about 26th December., which report the then situation:

The Company’s trade has been stopped due to a death at Lintin village and the Hong merchants have come to Whampoa to visit every ship and explain why.

The trade stoppage extends to the shopmen with whom we have formerly done our (non-tea, non-silk) business. Foreign goods left for sale with shopmen have been seized by government on the grounds that all foreign trade should be with Hong merchants. An American resident who had goods from a shopman in his warehouse had them seized as well.

The restriction of Security Merchants to just the four rich ones has facilitated their cartelisation of our goods. Cotton cannot get 6 Taels a bale on 180-days terms and we have 150,000 bales on hand.

We have about 600 chests of Malwa and 400 of Bengal at Whampoa but dare not sell because the Hong merchants have promised a 600 Tael reward for every chest discovered. Informers are everywhere. Malwa is nominally $1,200.

The Select opened the Company’s Treasury at Macau on 14th December for receipt of silver in exchange for Bills on London at 4/8d per dollar at 8-month’s Sight or 5/- per dollar at 730-days Sight. These are unexpectedly good rates and suggest the Select was doubtful of its ability to get enough silver. Contrarily, the stoppage of trade has encouraged many merchants to remit their capital and the Company received over $1 million in just a few days.

Everything we can buy from the Chinese is highly priced and is only bought as a means of remitting funds to India and Britain. Had the Company declared its intentions earlier they could have filled the Treasury at a lower exchange rate and that would have reduced the prices of Chinese exports.[70]

Saturday 16th February 1822

A report of the death on Lintin mentioned in the preceding article:

There has been another confrontation with the Chinese, this time at Lintin. HMS Topaze (Richardson) was anchored off the island whilst the Captain was doing business at Canton. (This ‘business’ is likely carriage of silver back to India, a perk of Naval Captains.) The warship sent parties ashore on Lintin from time to time to get fresh water and wash dirty clothes.

The villagers objected to foreigners taking water without permission, particularly in the dry winter months, as the island is small and the supply limited. Several altercations have occurred until a mutually satisfactory arrangement was made. This required inter alia that only one boat from the ship should land at any one time.

On 15th December a boat crew was ashore when a party of villagers attacked them and drove them back to the beach. Fourteen of the boat crew were injured. The officer-of-the-watch on HMS Topaze saw the fight and fired off 2-3 rounds of grape-shot into Lintin village to distract the attacking villagers. This satisfactorily ended the affray on the beach but killed one man and injured thirteen others in the village.

The Chinese have demanded that the responsible man be surrendered for judgement. Richardson was still at Canton when the affray occurred and only returned on board on 24th December after the Canton government had stopped foreign trade.

Saturday 23rd February 1822

Madras Gazette, 5th February – the David Clarke (Miller) has arrived at Madras from China which she left on 4th January. She brings G J Hadow of the Select and a party of 14 Chinese emigrants.

Another affray has occurred on Lintin Island over the use of the water supply – this time between a watering-party from a country ship and the villagers. One man was killed and 4-5 injured but trade had not been stopped at the time of the David Clarke’s departure.

Saturday 9th March 1822

The Barretto Junior (Fernandes) arrived Calcutta 10th February. She left Macau 29th December. She brings back to India the Baron Joseph de Porte Alegre, Miguel da Souza, M L de Silva and J E Hector.

Saturday 9th March 1822

Calcutta – The last arrivals from China say Capt Richardson of HMS Topaze has sought to reverse liability for the dispute at Lintin by commencing the concatenation with the assault on his watering party by the villagers. He has demanded the surrender of the village headman who led the attack.

Saturday 30th March 1822

The Select at Canton has told the Viceroy of the Two Kwong it has no authority over the acts of H M officers, specifically the officers of HMS Topaze. The Viceroy was unimpressed and trade continued stopped.

The Select then ordered a withdrawal from Canton to the ships at Whampoa, the removal of all their silver and property from the British factory to the fleet which was then to sail away (professedly to Manila but actually to Lintin). The ships remain in the Pearl River estuary at the time of this report.

The action was intended to create agitation amongst the Canton officials and induce their proposals for amicable settlement of the dispute. That does not seem to have occurred. We must impress our importance upon them. Without the Company, Canton’s foreign trade would be insignificant.

Vol 8 No 28 – Tuesday 14th July 1835

Captain Richard Alsager commanded HMS Waterloo during the Lintin affair of 1821-22 when the Select Committee was obliged to spend 6 weeks on his vessel at Chuen Pi.

Saturday 20th April 1822

The Rei do Reino Unido arrived Calcutta from Macau which she left on 29th January. She reports that the controversy over the two incidents of fighting on Lintin, which each caused the death of a Chinese villager, continue to prevent trade resuming. The effect of the Select moving their treasure and property from the Canton factories to the shipping and sailing down to 2nd bar was reportedly to make the Viceroy more consensual. The foreign community is in expectation of a resumption of trade.

Saturday 27th April 1822

Private letters from Canton dated 22nd February say the stoppage of trade has been ended and the Select and the Canton government are again in harmony.

John Bull in the East, 6th April, reports the Macauley arrived Penang from China in mid-March. Her Captain says the Select has returned to Canton, the Company’s shipping returned to Whampoa on 25th February and is being loaded. They should depart for England by mid-April.

The magistrates of Poon Yu and Tung Kwoon, M/s Kwang and Chung, have published an Edict on 22nd February to the Hong merchants in accordance with the instructions of the high provincial officials and in response to the English Taipan Urmston’s letter to the Hong merchants.

“Urmston reported that the British warship had taken the murderers away and he has no means of delivering them to justice” (HMS Topaze arrived Madras 6th April from Trincomalee). “Urmston agrees to send all the details of the affrays home so the responsible crewmen can be punished. He entreats that trade may re-opened. In consideration of all the facts, the high officials agree to indulge Urmston. He and his colleagues may return and trade their produce. They should be grateful.”

Cotton remains low in price with a huge stock overhanging the market. Company opium is selling at $2,040 – 2,050 and Malwa is $1,340. The high prices are due to distribution of the Company’s product now being necessarily through the cartel at Macau.

Two of the Company’s Indiamen (General Harris and another) were unable to obtain tea cargoes so late in the season and sailed in ballast. This is an onerous penalty which the Company has to pay as a result of the Lintin fighting. It is a commercial reverse to the Company and a severe embarrassment to Urmston.[71]

Saturday 18th May 1822

Notice – the Glorioso (Paterson) will sail from Bombay for China immediately after the Company’s forthcoming sale of Malwa opium. It will carry no other cargo. For freight apply to the owners M/s Roger d’ Faria & Co

(NB – the first auction is unsuccessful and sailing is delayed to the first Spring tide of July)

Saturday 18th May 1822

The Heroine has returned to Bombay from China and Penang bringing Charles Palmer, William Boyd and L Magniac of the Company’s civil service and the latter’s family. They completed the China / Penang leg on General Harris (George Welstead), the Indiaman that could not get a tea cargo.

They confirm relations with the Canton government are restored but the dispute with the Macau authorities (over control of the opium distribution) continues. Opium is selling at $2,050 the chest.

Saturday 18th May 1822

Henry Wright is the Purser of Castle Huntly (Henry A Drummond) for the 1821 / 22 season. The ship is one of the Indiamen on the London, Bombay, China route.

Saturday 25th May 1822

Wm Jardine of this port (Bombay) has kindly donated 8 Guineas to A Society for the Education of the Poor in the Scottish Highlands which was recently started here.

Jardine is presently involved as a Grand Juror in a tedious case in the Recorder’s Court of The Company v William Brown Hockley. It is expected to take many days.

Saturday 22nd June 1822

The failure to sell Indian cotton in the China market and the disruption of opium distribution in the Canton river, has deranged part of the Company’s usual source of funds for tea and the Company’s Canton Treasury was opened for sale of 1- and 2-year Bills on London at 4/8d and 5/- per silver dollar respectively.

Holders of cotton are unable to remit until their stock has been sold off and there is consequently reduced demand for Bills on Calcutta.

A total of $600,000 was collected on London Bills. This will create difficulties for the Company’s Treasury in London which is seldom asked to meet such large commitments.

It is potentially doubly embarrassing as the tea supply this year was markedly reduced (with lower quality and lower prices owing to adverse weather in the harvest season) and the Company was unable to complete its intended purchases. The Indiamen General Harris and Marquis of Camden were unable to load a cargo this year and sailed to Penang in ballast.[72]

Saturday 29th June 1822

The Charles Forbes (Thomas Bryden) has arrived from China and reports Patna opium on 15th April was selling at $2,500 per chest; Company Malwa at $1,500 and Damaun (smuggled) Malwa at $1,200 per picul.

The Company sold the last of its Bengal cotton in China at 7½ Taels.

Saturday 13th July 1822

The Glorioso finally sailed from Bombay for China on 7th July taking Mansfield Forbes and William Jardine as passengers.[73]

Saturday 17th August 1822

Much of the blue, black and scarlet broadcloth sold in China is made in Stroud, Gloucestershire and sold wholesale at 24/- to 35/- per yard.

With the opening of new markets in South America and better access to Asia, the weaving factories of England are busy. Products from Stroud no longer travel on the slow weekly wagons but go by daily ‘flying vans’.

Saturday 7th September 1822

J C Plowden has arrived Calcutta from China on the Mellish.

Saturday 21st September 1822

A third atrocity at Lintin has caused another cessation of British trade with China.

(NB – this is from the Editor’s summary of contents on his front page. The actual report is unavailable)

Saturday 21st December 1822

The Charlotte (Stevenson) arrived Bombay 18th December from China, which she left on 18th September. She reports all the Company’s and country ships from Bombay had arrived safely prior to her departure. Relations with the Canton government were tranquil but trade was slow. Bombay cotton was slightly improved but hardly profitable at 9 Taels a bale; Patna opium was handsomely, if nominally, priced at $2,400 a chest and Turkey $1,300 the picul. There are large stocks on hand and prices are expected to decline.

Note: At this time of year, there are English people arriving in the Indian Presidencies from China. Some of these people arrive on Portuguese ships from Macau. Some are army officers returning from sick leave and other Britons are identified as ‘in the country service’. Their arrival evokes no apparent concern on the part of the Company although it asserts a complete control of access to China. One must suppose these are the traders holding the Company’s licence to trade in China. The Company’s opium auctions commence in December / January each year.

Saturday 18th January 1823

The Sullemany returned to Bombay from China 11th January and reports a fire broke-out on 1st November outside the western wall of Canton city and spread throughout the suburbs. According to a letter from a Canton trader dated 18th November, it consumed 12,000 – 15,000 houses under the influence of a strong north easterly wind.

The European factories are built more of brick and less of wood but were no better able to withstand the heat. Part of the Creek factory was spared, due to its proximity to a water source with which to dampen the structure, and part of the Company’s factory was saved too. The Imperial, French, Dutch, Spanish, Danish and Swedish factories were all burnt down. Five of the Hong merchants’ factories were also damaged but only one (Mow Qua) occasioned great loss. The likely loss of goods in Chinese warehouses was not more than 10,000 each of cotton bales and chests of tea. All the other Chinese exports and foreign imports in the Hong merchants’ care have generally been saved. The Company’s stock of cloth and camlets in its own factory was destroyed.

The foreign community became aware of the fire long before it arrived at the factories and a considerable amount of property was moved into the boats and onto the seawall before it became too hot.

The immediate effect on us has been the temporary loss of accommodation. The Select and their writers have been housed by one of the Hong merchants. They sent their Treasury (about $300,000) to How Qua for safe-keeping. He was reluctant due to the risk of robbery and it was afterwards transferred to the shipping. Law and Order has diminished as looters for miles around have been attracted to the fire scene. About 50,000 people have temporarily lost their jobs. The Company’s ships officers assess their loss of goods and property jointly at £500,000. Mow Qua has lost £150,000 and every other Hong merchant has suffered but to a lesser extent.

From a commercial point of view, the fire has been beneficial. We were grotesquely over-stocked in cottons and even piecegoods were selling only slowly. The reduction of stock in these articles has firmed-up prices and piecegoods have already advanced. Only a small amount of the opium stock is kept at Canton but all that part of it that had been retailed to consumers in the western half of the city may have been destroyed. There should be a slight increase in demand but the costs of rebuilding and recovery will reduce discretionary spending. We may find the willingness of this market to continue paying the former high prices has reduced and some traders are talking of $1,500 for Bengal and $700 for Malwa next season.

The Company’s offered exchange rates for Bills on India are 204 Calcutta (Sicca) Rupees or 220 Bombay Rupees per $100 silver and 4/6d per dollar (nominal).

Saturday 18th January 1823

Bombay 27th December – the brig Eugenia (A Hogg), one of the expelled ships (see the Opium chapter), left China on 1st November and arrived Calcutta via Singapore today. She brings J Russell of the country service as passenger from Macau.

Saturday 15th February 1823

Mr Goddart, the Imperial (Austrian) Honorary Consul at Canton has sent us a copy of the Governor’s (Fu Yuen’s) recent Edict of 14th November 1822:

“The fire that spread uncontrolled throughout Canton over two days has destroyed most of the city. People have died, property has been lost and we are all reduced to sadness.

“This judgement of fire was due to the influence of the Pearl River. We must all submit to righteous destiny – it is useless to grieve. Merely recognise the warning from Heaven, repent your former sins and always recall the four characters – ‘heavenly principles, good heart’ – to avoid shame and enjoy the bounty of Heaven.

“When rebuilding your houses, do not encroach on your neighbour’s land. For those without a home, the magistrates are commanded to give rice and show compassion. If any looters are discovered they are to be severely punished. Extra police and troops are patrolling the streets to ensure good order. I invite civic-minded volunteers to join them.

“As for the foreigners who come far across the sea for trade and have no place to roost, I require the Hong merchants to settle them tranquilly and ensure each has a place to live and is not destitute.”

Saturday 1st March 1823

The Editor has received another fascinating example of the Chinese style of government – an Edict dated 9th December 1822:

“Yuen the Governor and Ta the Hoppo instruct the Hong merchants as follows. When the Indian and American merchants petitioned against Pak Qua, we ordered that Hong to be closed and the merchant prosecuted.

“Then How Qua and others petitioned again on behalf of those same complainants that Pak Qua be permitted to trade-through his difficulties, that he might amass the capital with which to pay-off his debts. Pak Qua’s share of the Company’s trade was said to ensure his profits and enable him to settle his creditors.

“There is a long-existing law that prohibits Hong merchants from becoming indebted to foreigners. This law was doubtless broken by Pak Qua. It appears that the initial petition of the Indians and Americans was rash and hasty.

“In order to placate the foreign community and give effect to their desires as far as possible, and in reliance on the advice that Pak Qua will in time be able to pay-off his debts, we agree to liberate and restore him to his Hong that he may trade as before. The senior Hong merchants How Qua, Mow Qua, Chun Qua and Poon Ki Qua must maintain a vigilant surveillance on his trade to ensure the foreign debts are paid-off.

“The foreign merchants are cautioned to avoid dealings with enfeebled Hong merchants. They should repudiate the apparent chance for windfall profits that might follow their support of a feeble merchant. They should observe the balances due to them and not allow them to accumulate to hundreds of thousands of Taels before making complaint. On the other hand the Hong merchants are reminded of the law and cautioned to avoid assuming debt to foreigners.

“We expect the foreigners and Hong merchants to not trifle with our directions or do as they please. In the event of a recurrence, the involved Hong merchant will be de-licensed and the foreigners’ debt will be capped at 100,000 Taels.”

Saturday 22nd March 1823

The Ranger (Clark) left China on 30th January and has just arrived Calcutta. She reports Bengal and Bombay cotton are nominally 8½ Taels a bale with few sales. Bengal opium is $2,350 nominal whilst Bombay Malwa is selling briskly at $1,380 (this includes the Remington/ Jardine shipment on Glorioso which ship has just returned to Bombay 21st March – see the Asia and Opium chapters for brief additional details) and Turkey is doing a little business at $1,150.

The foreign merchants at Canton suspect another Hong is about to fail but they dare not petition the Canton government again.

Saturday 24th May 1823

Private letters from Canton dated 6th March say Company’s Malwa is selling at $1,460 and smuggled (Damaun) Malwa at $1,300.[74] The demand for cotton has slightly revived since the fire destroyed many thousands of bales. Bombay cotton is quoted at 10 Taels but there is only light buying. There is still some stock over-hanging the market.

Saturday 15th November 1823

The Milford has arrived at Calcutta from China which she left on 7th August. The stock of Bombay cotton was 20,000 bales before the arrival of the ships with this year’s crop and sales were few at 8 Taels. Opium has fallen considerably and a few chests of Malwa sold at $1,160. About 5,700 chests are in storage.

Saturday 13th December 1823

Bengal Hurkaru of 21st November has a Letter from Nepal of 20th October 1823:

In June 1822 the Rajah of this country sent two representatives (Dilbunjun Pandee and Divee Bhughut) to Peking to ask for help against the Company’s invasion. They took 8 months to arrive and remained at Peking for 55 days.

The letter describes the Emperor and brief details of Chinese society but nothing about their mission.

Saturday 27th December 1823

The Snipe arrived at Calcutta from China recently with accounts of trade at Canton to 8th October. Old Malwa is selling very slowly at $1,050 and new Malwa at $1,000. There are 6,000 chests in storage and 4,000 in the ships on their way there. That is about two year’s supply. Cotton is slightly increased in sale price.

Canton Register Vol 1 No 1 – 8th November 1827

This newspaper will provide accurate ‘prices current’ and news of trading partners and of the Chinese. There will be shipping information and translations of Chinese texts. The paper will be published fortnightly.

Vol 1 No 2 – 23rd November 1827

The military operations in Turkestan have ended and the Chinese army recalled. The Muslim rebels have been driven back from Aksa to beyond Kashgar.

Yarkand and Khoten have been recovered but the chief rebel was not caught.

There is speculation in the foreign community that Russian troops are supporting him. It is said that poverty has become unbearable and people throughout the Empire are rebelling.

Imperial finances are in trouble and the court has reluctantly opted on the sale of offices for one year which has so far produced 6 million Taels of new revenue.

Vol 1 No 2 – 23rd November 1827

A fire commenced in the square adjoining the Hong merchants’ warehouses at 3.30 am yesterday and was brought under control at 7am by the efforts of the resident traders and the ship’s officers and their boat crews.

Vol 1 No 2 – 23rd November 1827

16th November will be the last day of the month-long celebration to the Fire God. Yesterday a company of actors from Hu Kwang performed in China Street in Mandarin.

Vol 1 No 2 – 23rd November 1827

An example of Chinese judicial punishment was seen a few days ago when three thieves were driven through the streets near the factories. Their hands were tied together and the rope end held by an officer who beat each man on the stroke of a gong thus urging them forwards at a trot. They appeared faint and exhausted and their backs were lacerated and suppurating.

Vol 1 No 3 – 30th November 1827

A recent government seizure of opium is to be burnt at the gate of the Governor’s yamen on 8th and 9th days of this moon. One of the staff tried to substitute other goods for the opium. The Governor was persuaded to send him to the Nam Hoi Yuen (magistrate) and the employee killed himself by overdose. The Governor was concerned that the Manchu General would report the death to Peking and called upon him in which meeting both officers agreed the deceased was the author of his own misfortune.

Vol 1 No 3 – 30th November 1827

The natives are concerned that frequent droughts and floods in recent years indicate something inauspicious is about to happen to the Empire. In the 3rd 5th and 6th years of the To Kwong Emperor’s reign the Poyang Lake has flooded. The dykes have eroded. The lower they get, the more reluctant the local governor is to repair them (more costly). This neglect facilitates more flooding.

Vol 1 No 3 – 30th November 1827

Absolute governments depend on the character of the sovereign. In mixed governments, the Constitution controls the will of the governors. In the government under which we live here, no man other than the monarch can do as he pleases and he himself must act according to Law.

Local rumour has it that the present Governor Lee of Canton is a mild man wishing for a peaceful rule. The Hoppo Wan is also mild when sober but, being a Manchu, drinks heavily and is liable to become violent. Hoppo Wan is expected to be relieved at year-end as his kinsman Ying Ho, a friend of the heir apparent, has outlived his friends and supporters and, having no group at Court, been sacked. It was Ying Ho who got Wan the job.[75]

Vol 1, No 4 – 14th December 1827

Official papers from Peking, which arrived on 24th November, say the Imperial army lost some men to the Muslim rebels. The Chinese troops pulled back from Kashgar and could not retake the place. The Emperor is anxious.

The Imperial army includes 2,000 convicts who had earlier been transported to Ili but were then permitted this chance to redeem themselves in battle.

Vol 1, No 4 – 14th December 1827

On 22nd November a new Hoppo Ya arrived at Canton from Ningpo. His late brother was a member of the Emperor’s inner council of six.

Bandits in Shantung have become so numerous that the local Governor has been allowed to exercise summary powers to avoid the expense of imprisoning so many culprits.

Vol 1, No 4 – 14th December 1827

On 4th December the US Ship Maria (Evans) sailed from Whampoa for New York taking back the US Honorary Consul J H Grosvenor

Vol 1, No 4 – 14th December 1827

On 13th December HCS Buckinghamshire (Glasspoole) sailed for London taking back the Honourable and Mrs H H Lindsay

Vol 1 No 5 – 15th January 1828

Sir William Fraser, Taipan of the Select, died on 22nd December and was interred in the Company’s Protestant cemetery at Macau on Christmas Day. Dr Morrison officiated. Fraser was about 40 years old and very rich.

(NB – He was 2nd Baronet of Leadclune)

Vol 1 No 5 – 15th January 1828

On 23rd December the Macau Governor Sr Joaquim Mourao Garcez Palha and the ex-General Joao Cabral d’Estifique left on the ship Conde for Goa.

The bishop Francisco de N S da Luz Chacim will act as Governor in consultation with the new judge Pires da Costa and the new commandant Alexandre Joaquim Grand-Pre. These three enjoy greater respect than any Macau administration for many years.

The municipal officers are :

Procurador – Jose Joaquim Ferreira Veiga (he deals with the Chinese officials)

Senators – Antonio Gularte da Silveira, Joaquim Vidigal, Manuel Francisco Marques, Antonio Joaquim da Costa Bastos and Simao Vicente Rosa.

Vol 1 No 5 – 15th January 1828

41 Buddhist monks from a temple at Shao Kuan (northern Kwangtung) have been brought in chains to Canton. Thieves have been robbing passing traders travelling the land route to the tea districts and they were traced to this monastery. The monks were all convicted. The temple will be destroyed.

Vol 1 No 5 – 15th January 1828

The Canton Hoppo has reportedly in some way displeased the Emperor who has ordered him to hand over his seals to the Viceroy and go back immediately to Peking.

Vol 1 No 5 – 15th January 1828

The removal of the great heap of debris that has lain so long in front of the factories has commenced.[76] This shows that when we exert ourselves with the officials we can get things done. We should apply this knowledge to the other onerous restrictions that characterise our lives here.

Vol 1 No 5 – 15th January 1828

4th January the Danish ship Norden (Burd) sailed from Whampoa for Hamburg.

Vol 1 No 5 – 15th January 1828

Passenger arrivals and departures:

Mr Mrs George Best Robinson and two children, The Hon H H Lindsay, John R Reeves, the tea taster, and Dr Sims arrived 20th December per HCS Larkins from London.

Thomas T Forbes arrived per US ship Milo on 28th December from London

Lancelot Dent left on the Cornwallis 6th January for Bombay.

Vol 1 No 6 – 4th February 1828

Portuguese trade is restricted to Macau; other Europeans trade only at Canton but the Spanish can trade at both these places and enjoy the exclusive advantage of trade at Amoy.

Amoy has a fine harbour but there is no big river giving access to the interior so it will probably never become a great mart. Fuk Chow to the north, the other big city of Fukien, has a great river from the Bohea (pu erh) Hills. According to Chinese geographers, Amoy’s hinterland produces native silks, cloth, iron, salt, tea, lychee, long-an, oranges and various spices. A military officer and a deputy magistrate run Amoy and another Amoy military officer is stationed on the Peng Hu islands.

No Spanish ship has gone to Amoy for 20 years allegedly because the costs of trade were too high.[77]

A long-time Canton resident tells us that on one of the last Spanish voyages there, the Amoy officials abandoned the tariff and negotiated a special rate with the captain of $750 for the measurement duty whilst the capital he imported for trade was taxed at 5½%. All the Chinese merchants who bought from or sold to the ship were also taxed. The effective response to heavy exactions is invariably to prepare the ship for departure. This caused the official’s representative to offer new more tolerable terms.

In 1823 a Spanish ship visited without intending to trade. When she left, the Mandarin followed in his own boat for a considerable distance, entreating her return but declining to discuss the level of duty until the Governor’s opinion was known. He lived far away it was said. Both officials and merchants at Amoy are very friendly and invited the ship’s officer to smoke and take tea.

Several Amoy merchants have dealt with Manila and speak Spanish. Some of them profess the Catholic faith (all the Chinese residents at Manila are obliged to profess Christianity as a term of residence). The foreigners were allowed to go everywhere although always attended by some runners. They were told they should have the freedom of the city once the Governor’s advice was received. They stayed 3-4 days. Trade was said to be listless but the forest of junk masts in harbour belied that advice.

Any attempt we make to recommence trade at Amoy should be done on a small scale. The people are willing but they receive only a limited supply of foreign produce through the coasting junk trade and have little capital for its purchase. The town has an adequate number of translators.

The English had a factory there in 1676 but it was destroyed when the Ching armies swept down the coast securing Fukien to their dynasty. They expelled the China traders. The English fled to Tong King and Bantam. The factory was re-established in 1686 and continued until the Imperial edict of 1760 restricted all foreign trade to Canton. At the last visits a few years ago the tombs of the foreigners who had died there were still visible in the cemetery.

Vol 1 No 6 – 4th February 1828

Peking Gazettes:

  • The Emperor’s younger brother has been caught intriguing with eunuchs. He was banished from the palace and dismissed from all his offices. The Emperor says he is idle and profligate. It used to be said that the previous Emperor intended his younger son to succeed him but To Kwong obtained the position for himself. The profligate brother is now 37 years old.
  • An official named To Lung Woo has been appointed Imperial Resident at Khotan (on the southern route around the Takla Makan) and ordered to proceed there at once.

Vol 1 No 6 – 4th February 1828

It is said the small Dutch community at Nagasaki is collecting material for a new book on Japan.

The Japanese are apparently translating Morrison’s Chinese Dictionary into Japanese. They liked the alphabetical part of the dictionary so much it has since become fashionable to decorate fans with columns of characters together with their definitions, like a page of the dictionary.

Vol 1 No 6 – 4th February 1828

Senators Costa Basto, da Silva and Marques are away from Macau and Pedro Feliciano de Figueredo, Raimondo Nicolao Vieira and Dr Francisco Antonio Ciabre will act for them temporarily.

Vol 1 No 6 – 4th February 1828

The Canton Hoppo’s wife died a few days ago. It was announced she has gone to ”ramble with the genii”. The great officers of the province express their vexation

(Editor – in China it seems death causes anger and indignation not grief or sorrow)

Vol 1 No 6 – 4th February 1828

Peking Gazettes – A Manchu officer bought a slave girl but discovered she had leprosy. He complained to the police but they could not find the seller. The girl has been sent to a leper colony.

The middleman who arranged the deal has had his face judicially slapped and been ordered to find the seller and get back the soldier’s money.

Vol 1 No 6 – 4th February 1828

Another fire occurred on 15th January in the timber-yards on the north bank of the river near the factories. Several warehouses containing oil, salt, rattans, firecrackers and other combustibles were destroyed.

The tide was out and water for extinguishment could not quickly be had so the damage was worse than usual.

On 28th January night two men carrying incendiary materials were arrested north of the factories in Yung Kwong Street

Vol 1 No 6 – 4th February 1828

Long-term residents will recall the pirate Cheung Po Chai who surrendered to Viceroy Yuen years ago on condition he could join the Chinese Navy. He died two years ago.

Well, his son is now aged 20 years and is serving ably under the Kwong Heep (the General of the Chinese army of Kwongchow) at Canton.

Vol 1 No 6 – 4th February 1828

Now the trading season is over and most vessels have departed it is timely to review the last year’s business.

Few can remember such uniform low prices for cottons throughout a year. Although they did increase marginally it was only enough to defray the interest due. Bombay supplied the same quantity as last year but Bengal sent only one shipment (apart from the Company’s supply). The remaining stock is now less than 70,000 bales.

All Straits produce except rattans has been disastrous. Betel nut and pepper, formerly reliable sellers, have become a drag. It may be that the civil disturbances in the north have affected trade distribution channels.

There were large exports of bullion this year. The low exchange rate (silver dollars for Sicca Rupees or Sterling) has induced many traders to ship return cargoes of iron, lead and steel to the European markets, i.e. to take their profits in Europe as proceeds of cargo sales rather than exchange silver for Bills from the Select in China.

Several vessels this year were trading on the new Hawaii / Canton route and the increase of trade there is pleasing.

Vol 1 No 6 – 4th February 1828

Passengers – W C Hunter left 2nd February on the American ship Mary Lord for New York.

Vol 1 No 6 – 4th February 1828

Prices Current:

Patna $1,160, Benares $1,170, Malwa $1,370, Turkey $740

Consumption January 1828


Stock 1.2.1828

Patna / Benares 148 chests,

Malwa 259

Patna / Benares 1,400,

Malwa 890

Vol 1 No 7 – Monday 11th February 1828

Kwolifunga, the Manchu General of Hangchow, has died and on 14th December the Emperor ordered that he be honoured with burial within the precincts of Peking city. The Chekiang Treasury will pay 300 Taels for the ceremony

(Editor – No corpse may enter Peking without Imperial consent because a rebel once entered the city that way during the Kien Lung Emperor’s reign. No corpse is permitted into any city via the southern gate as the Emperor faces that direction when he sits)

Vol 1 No 7 – Monday 11th February 1828

The Emperor has been in the eastern hills burying his mother and inspecting his own mausoleum which was recently completed. The owners of the lands through which the Emperor passed to view his auspicious site (his retinue is extensive) have been compensated with 50% off their land tax this year

Vol 1 No 7 – Monday 11th February 1828

On 31st January 1828 six Chinese from Tung Kwoon visited Marjoribanks, Jackson, Lindsay and Astell, members of the Select Committee, to give thanks for their deliverance. Their junk sank in the river and they were rescued by a Company boat.

Jackson handed over $270 which had been collected for their relief as their junk and cargo had both been lost. A document proposing the brotherhood of man and international co-operation in typhoons was given to the headman of the village from whence the junk crew came. He said he will have its contents etched in stone in the village.

Tung Kwoon extends from First Bar to Chuenpi and contains many junk-owning, seafaring families. Copies of the thanksgiving document were presented by old Wong Yam Ting to each of the Select.

The document says we Wong Hei Tik, Leung Shing Tsin, Lai Chong Yip and Lai Man Tsun are natives of Sung Wan Chai and Yo Mo Sha in Tung Kwoon. We went to Chin Chu Nei in Shun Tak for trade and on returning home, as we passed the 2nd bar, a great gust of wind overturned our boat and threw us in the water. Then Jackson and others came in three small boats and saved us. They resuscitated us and gave money for us to get home.

We widely published the virtue of Jackson etc., at home and our elders Wong Tau Yeung and Wong Yam Ting led the four of us to Canton to kow-tow a hundred times to the foreigners and return thanks. When we get home we will erect a gold-lettered tablet with the names of our deliverers to honour them. And we will tell others of their good deed.

Vol 1 No 7 – Monday 11th February 1828

The Company’s China investment last year and for some time past has been solely in tea. Their ship commanders and officers however trade in tea, raw silk, nankeens, silk piece goods and some spices. Silk export is reduced and shipments to third countries are fewer. Nankeens have been scarce. Prudence has regulated the investment in silk piece goods. Cinnamon has been cheap but camphor is in short supply.

The Americans have been importing Turkish opium and quicksilver. They have long monopolised the import trade in furs. They export tea, nankeens and silk piece goods. They have been doing well and three American ships were consigned to Europe this season. Most trade at Canton is done by British and Americans. The Netherlands Company sent out 6 ships this season and took chiefly tea in return. One Danish and two French ships also visited.

Vol 1 No 7 – Monday 11th February 1828

Prices Current:

Patna $1,120, Benares $1,130, Company Malwa $1,350, Turkey $740

Vol 1 No 8 – Monday 18th February 1828

Imperial Edict – All the criminals scheduled for autumn execution have had their cases reconsidered. Several provincial government decisions have been reversed and all the officials involved in those decisions are themselves to be subjected to enquiry.

Governors and Judges must act without prejudice – they may not mitigate nor be too severe. There can be no injustice and no indulgence. Every criminal must receive what his crime deserves. Respect This.

Vol 1 No 8 – Monday 18th February 1828

The army at Urumchi in Tartary has been fighting the Muslim insurgents for over a year and requires funds for repair of saddles and shoes and clothes and replacement of some horses. The Emperor orders a half-year’s pay to be advanced which is to be recouped after the war is concluded.

Repairing the walls of Muslim towns after their re-capture from rebels is costing more than expected. The Emperor allows a supply of copper to be mined and the detachment of several officials to supervise its coining.

Vol 1 No 8 – Monday 18th February 1828

Some soldiers have been caught conniving with local natives in killing a special type of deer for its horns which have medicinal qualities. This species of deer is a monopoly of the Emperor. They are ordered to desist.

Vol 1 No 8 – Monday 18th February 1828

Peking Gazettes:

  • Several government gunboats which patrol the Chekiang coast to deter piracy have been lost in a storm.
  • Woolungo, the third member of the military triumvirate ruling Turkestan, is sick. The Emperor orders him to rest and recover.
  • Southerners sentenced to transportation are sent to Ili, a freezing place on the Russian frontier in the north west of China. Nomadic tribes called Hassacks bring horses and cattle to Ili to trade for cloth from Kashgar and Khoten. This year there was insufficient cloth owing to the Islamic rebellion in Turkestan.

Vol 1 No 8 – Monday 18th February 1828

A big-character poster has been published by Wong, the Judge of Canton, and posted on house walls and in the streets:

“Canton is crowded and vagabonds take advantage of the press of people to cut away purses from pedestrians in daytime and to break through walls at night. No-one is tranquil. Local blackguards (known popularly in Cantonese as Tak Wan and Larn Tsai) saunter idly in the streets, gambling and swindling to obtain their clothes and food. Some rough soldiers and officials assist these Larn Tsai. They congregate at ferry piers and markets and prey on the hard-working people.

“Now it is the end of the year (when debts have to be settled), people will be hurrying and perturbed and these bad men will have an easy time. I command all civil and military officers to arrest the Larn Tsai. All people should pursue their own trades and obey the law. Do not descend into banditry for you will be caught and punishment will follow. Repent and reform now. Repentance after the fact is useless – like a man trying to bite his own navel.

“All you people who see vagabonds should seize them and drag them before the magistrate. If officials connive with Larn Tsai they will be flogged until they are dead. There will be no indulgence. Tremble and obey. Oppose not.”

Vol 1 No 8 – Monday 18th February 1828

There have been frequent recent cases in Canton of people stealing bundles from pedestrians and handing them to an accomplice to escape whilst they themselves remain to obstruct pursuit and delay the victim with words.

One culprit has confessed to having 60 accomplices. Another was caught together with one of his accomplices but the case was kept from the magistrate by soldiers who are accordingly suspected of licensing these crimes.

Vol 1 No 8 – Monday 18th February 1828

At Nim Chou in western Kwangtung a triad gang attacked a village, harvested its rice, and took off with both the crop and the cattle after wounding several farmers who tried to stop them.

The governor has called on the army to capture the gang.

Vol 1 No 8 – Monday 18th February 1828

Lam Ah Low was beheaded on 1st February for coastal piracy. In the last 12 months 202 men have been executed for murder, robbery and rape. Some two thirds of the awards were not referred to Peking for confirmation.

Slicing is a terrible punishment. The culprit is bound to a cross. The forehead is cut horizontally and the facial skin pulled down. He is then dismembered joint by joint, distal to proximal. It is called ling chee, meaning ignominious and slow.

It is reserved for crimes against superiors – officials or parents – and for treason.

Vol 1 No 8 – Monday 18th February 1828

For the accommodation of the foreign trade, the seals of the Customs House at Canton will be locked up for only 3-4 days at Lunar New Year.

The Hoppo is sending 1,900,000 Taels to Peking. Civilians are being co-opted from the villages around Canton to escort the silver. 38 men have been selected so far.

Vol 1 No 8 – Monday 18th February 1828

The Bishop of Macau died on 31st January. Macau Bishops are appointed by the Court in Lisbon.

Vol 1 No 8 – Monday 18th February 1828

On 10th February a European was surrounded by about 40 Chinese boatmen and hustled through the streets. A Parsee saw the event and intervened. The Englishman was in dispute with the Chinese and both parties had agreed to refer the matter to the Select Committee only half an hour before the harassment. The Select has complained. The boatmen have disappeared.

Vol 1 No 8 – Monday 18th February 1828

Advertisement dated 8th February 1828:

The Widow Payva and Sons (the largest Macau business house) announce that their current partnership agreement will expire on 20th December 1828 and will not be renewed.

All accounts will be liquidated by the current managing partner, Jaoquim Joze Ferreira Veiga, on expiry of the partnership.

Vol 1 No 8 – Monday 18th February 1828

The Jamesina Grant left Whampoa on 10th February carrying Marjoribanks, Clarke, Ravenshaw and Matheson to Bombay.

Vol 1 No 8 – Monday 18th February 1828

Prices Current:

Patna $1,120, Benares $1,130, Company Malwa $1,380 all per chest; Turkey $740 per picul.

Vol 1 No 9, 26th February 1828

Cotton imports for the 1827 season:

Bengal (7 Company and country ships)

Bombay (in 5 Company & 22 country ships)

Madras in 3 India Company ships

37,631 bales

108,023 bales

12,356 bales

Bullion Exports for the 1827 season –

to Bengal: $2,159,837 coins; sycee $19,210 and South American silver $55,273.

to Bombay: $3,143,840 coins; sycee $251,819 and South American silver $28,000.

Import of silver we hear totalled $2,304,800.

Company Bills on Bengal totalled $1,700,000

Most of the exported treasure is in defaced and broken coin. The Chinese prohibit the export of bullion generally but licence each vessel to export up to 1/3rd of the value of its import cargo in coin (i.e. non-Chinese silver – all sycee and anything made of silver except foreign coins is prohibited for export. The entries for non-coin silver exports are exclusively the profits of smuggled goods).

This 1/3rd licensed quantity is not always taken up by ships but the Hoppo permits accumulation so a large shipment can be immediately exported by combining the licensed but unused allocations of previous voyages.

Some South American silver, minted supposedly by the newly independent Republics, has been found to be adulterated.

There are many types of sycee. Revenue (or Hoppo) Sycee is the unit for tax on foreign trade; Salt Sycee is for the gabelle; Fanfoo Sycee is highly refined to 99%+ purity and is for land tax and land-use tax. This last pays the army and civil service establishments and is seldom available in the market.

Another sycee weighing 50 Taels per piece (all the others are one tael pieces) is brought from Nanking and Chuan Chow and exported by the Parsees to India where it can sometimes be seen in the bazaars of Bombay.

Interest is normally 12% p a but a 1st class Hong merchant will not pay that rate for deposits from foreigners unless some exigency arises, in which case rates can go very high.

Vol 1 No 9, 26th February 1828

Pawnbroking is a very extensive trade in China. There are two types:

  • A small loan pawnbroker deals with the villagers and small farmers. The amounts of money involved are small. Security is often clothing or small household items.
  • The other deals with more wealthy customers and receives jewellery from individuals but is mainly concerned with trade finance. They make advances on cargoes and other large deposits of goods. The loan period is generally for a maximum of 3 years with 3 months grace added.[78]

Vol 1 No 9, 26th February 1828

Explanation of our Prices Current:

Duties on foreign trade are paid by the Chinese buyers and sellers. The figures in our Prices Current state the prices of export commodities with duty included and of import commodities with duty excluded. The export prices include every charge until the cargo is in the ship’s hold. The import prices do not. Goods we import to China are sold on board. The Chinese buyer attends weighing on the ship and arranges his own junks, coolies and tallymen to remove the cargo. All of those charges are excluded in our Prices Current.

Vol 1 No 9, 26th February 1828

The scale of duties should always be discussed by foreign traders as many items are rated in the tariff by the piece without consideration of size or quality. The Hoppo’s men will endeavour to assess duties in an arbitrary way that discourages discussion. With the English, this gives rise to endless unnecessary disputes. There is no provision for drawback in the Chinese Customs tariff. If an imported article is exported, it attracts an additional export duty unless it is returned as unsellable to the same ship that imported it.

All solids and liquids are sold by weight.

Tutenague used to be a substantial return cargo although the export of metals is formally prohibited and only a small amount is now allowed to be shipped each year. To be fair the domestic demand is always high as it is needed for manufacturing home utensils and in processing copper. Now the import of European spelter into India has ended demand for Chinese tutenague there and the trade is largely abandoned.

Saltpetre (an ingredient in gunpowder) is welcomed as an import but must be sold to the government through the salt monopoly. The Salt Merchants control the prices and have troublesome administrative requirements. Consequently saltpetre is mostly smuggled by foreigners. Its consumption is substantial and it is always in demand for making firecrackers and for salting meats and vegetables.

Trade at Canton used to be by barter but now most bargains are at least nominally made for cash. Thirty days is frequently given for the settlement of big transactions

Customs officers are invariably diligent in detecting what is going on but they use the information to increase their own wealth.

All business connected with landing and shipping of cargo for the foreigners is done by a Linguist. It is a civil appointment and each Linguist buys his job. They handle the company’s ships in rotation but the ships of other nations and the country ships are within the patronage of the main consignee. A Linguists’s emoluments can be enormous but his job is a troublesome one and many things can and do go wrong.[79]

There is often a problem ascertaining the overall quantity of an import for statistical purposes. This is because the Chinese coasting junks actively import from Manila, Celebes, Batavia, Malacca and Singapore etc., but take the cargoes to ports other than Canton. Goods moved from Canton into the interior are caught at revenue stations for transit duty. The Chinese junk-masters largely avoid this by discharging at other ports.[80]

Vol 1 No 9, 26th February 1828

The Censor of Kiang Nan has advised the Emperor that serious crime is not being detected. Want of diligence may be due to bribery, he suspects. When the victims appeal to Peking for justice their cases are often remitted to the same people who denied them justice in the first instance. The careless magistrate does not supervise or control his police or pathologists who do as they please. A few examples of false proceedings are listed by the Censor:

  • In one, a man was said to have committed suicide by hanging when he had actually been poisoned.
  • In another, a mother directed one son to beat another for misapplying the family’s wealth, from which beating he died.
  • In a third, a man abused a boy then murdered him and the magistrate accepted a bribe to find the cause of death was ‘drowning’.

The censor requests that Governors be stricter with magistrates and closely attend to any appeals from their decisions.

Offences against the person are punished differently in China.

A grandparent killing a grandchild, a parent killing his child, a master killing his slave – these offences attracting awards of 60 – 70 blows.

Falsely accusing another of such murders attracts 80 blows and transportation for 3 years.

The Censor’s case of fratricide above was small beer. In Chinese law, a person encouraging another to commit murder is as guilty as the murderer himself. We can see how sophistry entered the Chinese position in the case of the gunner.[81]

Vol 1 No 9, 26th February 1828

Chow, the criminal judge at Canton, prohibits husbands selling their wives or conniving at their adultery. The relationship of husband with wife is the first of the five social bonds. The female apartments of a home renew all morals. Husband and wife should respect each other as host and guest and live in constant harmony. The wife looks up to her husband as her Heaven and may not desert him.

But Canton is the worst place for vile practices. Prosperity makes men forget affection. A lack of food and clothes induced by gambling causes sudden repudiation and the rejected wife is hired by covetous people for immoral purposes. Some sell their wives to the embrace of others. Some invite men to their houses and surrender their wives to prostitution.

These practices cause a deadly wound to public morals. Even if you are poor you must follow Heaven and act decorously. Diligence and economy are sufficient for life. Mistreating a wife is a disgrace to the family.

You adulterers will be prosecuted to the utmost rigour of the law. It is impossible for the Emperor to endure you.

There are seven legal grounds for divorce.[82] Any other divorce is punished with 80 blows. The marriage bond is kindness and righteousness. Its continuance is decorum. Breaches of decorum may be overlooked but unrighteous behaviour like spouse-beating is as bad as forced cohabiting with another or hiring out a wife for cohabitation.

Vol 1 No 9, 26th February 1828

We recently learned and reported that a corpse may not be brought into town through the south entrance. This explains an event in Macau a few years ago. An officer had died on board a Company Ship in Macau roads and his body was brought ashore for burial. The corpse was rowed to the Customs House on South Bay Road (Praia Grande) but the revenue officer there turned out the guard to prevent the corpse being taken up the steps which are in front of that Imperial office. The coffin was draped with the Union Jack and the pall bearers felt an insult had been received until the Protestant vicar arrived and led the bearers along the beach where they handed the coffin up over the quay without interruption from the soldiers.

Vol 1 No 9, 26th February 1828

The Wah Yuen (Literary Prefect) of Kiangsi, Fok Shin, was accused of selling literary degrees. The Emperor sent two commissioners from Peking who searched his house and found 400,000 Taels. Fok Shin was disgraced and soon after hanged himself.

The Emperor has published the names of the people who will share the New Year feast with him. The Heir Apparent and the other five members of the Inner Council are named together with a dozen others including old Sung, the official who conducted Macartney south from Peking in 1794 and was thought to have died two years ago.

Vol 1 No 9, 26th February 1828

There is no Prices Current in this issue in view of the Lunar New Year holiday. We find the innocent and universal joy of the multitude very pleasing. Although we are far from home, the delightful emotions that the local people have kindled within us, approximate our delight when at home. The happy countenance of all, mutual congratulations, the best dresses, the total forgetfulness of business and toil remind us of the joy we ourselves, young and old, feel at Christmas. All the houses are decorated. The domestic altars are opened, with incense burning and even the poorest person wears his best dress. Children proudly wear a new cap or shoes. Glossy fur trims handsome robe, perhaps a family heirloom of many generations.

At the commencement of the holidays the weather was poor but it has since been fine and the Chinese pleasure boats on the river are splendidly gay. Fah Tei gardens are well attended and foreigners can go there on certain days. We could sense that the people wanted to talk with us had we not been restrained by the cultural abyss.

Vol 1 No 10 – 8th March 1828

The Governor of Canton has published an Edict against abuses:

1st – Clerical staff in public offices combine to extort money. The local magistrates connive and dismiss all complaints without distinguishing the innocent from the guilty.

2nd In Canton people of different names associate together in clans. Large village clans insult small clans. They seize the best land and streams. They insult the men and women of the smaller clans whenever they pass-by. In disputes over graves or debts, they adopt barbarous violence and drive the smaller clans from the neighbourhood. They even kill each other at times.

3rd Accusing an innocent person to extort money. It is what the lowest civil servants call ‘planting a fir tree’. There is a class of swindlers that consorts with police to identify rich timid people whom they then accuse of keeping a gambling house or brothel or harbouring bandits, or report they fight or rob. These swindlers give a list of names to the police who are issued with a warrant to bring the criminals in for trial without further enquiry. They seize these innocent people, bind them and throw them in the hold of a boat or in an empty room and ill-treat them in a hundred ways until they pay for their freedom. The ignorant and simple people are fearful of being brought before the magistrate and submit.[83] Only very few appear and state their case. Then the accuser disappears and the case is pended in perpetuity.

4th A policeman on receiving a witness summons for service puts himself in a chair with a host of bearers and goes off to the witness whom he importunes first for food and wine to recover from the rigours of the journey, then for recovery of the costs of transport and all the bearers’ wages and finally for the costs of the summons itself. At the first hint of reluctance the bearers create a noisy disturbance exciting the neighbours, or they drag off all the domestic animals as security, or they wreck the furniture. Process-servers may not travel by chair. They will travel on foot.

5th Around Kwangtung province this last few years some landowners have erected dykes to straighten parts of the river bank and thus enclosed some shallow waters which they then add to their own land. There is a class of sharp villager called ‘Sand Swindlers’ who work with government clerks to commence litigation over this additional land. By false depositions they keep title to the new land in dispute for decades during which time they claim and harvest any production on that land.

6th In small or big cases (criminal, property or matrimonial law cases) when the police are sent to the suspect’s house to arrest him they detain him there, even torturing him, to extort money before bringing him before the magistrate. Occasionally the prisoner dies whereupon they misrepresent the death as suicide or from disease and, to have their story accepted, they compel the relatives to receive and bury the remains.

7th The collection of excessive tax. One mode has been for the collector to scratch himself slightly and accuse the landowner of wounding an officer and of refusing to pay – a capital crime.

Editor – collection of excessive tax? That is what happens to everyone disembarking at Macau. Not just newcomers but respected long-term residents are subjected to the rude aggression and insult of the coolies and lowly Customs house retainers. The murdered gunner and Terranova[84]should not be forgotten. Their fate speaks about justice in China and reflects little honour on our mother countries who care only for teas and revenue.

Vol 1 No 10 – 8th March 1828

We hear today of a Cantonese named Lee Tse Man who has just been appointed magistrate of a heen in Kwong Si. A resident there engaged a musical band to accompany his bride to his father’s house as law and custom requires.

Lee got drunk and wished to engage the band himself but the man was still using it and declined to release the players. Lee had him arrested and his men tortured the bridegroom to death, whereupon Lee himself took fright and killed himself.

Vol 1 No 10 – 8th March 1828

Edict of Hoppo Wan, 29th day, 10th month, 7th year of the To Kwong Emperor.

To the Linguist Ah Chow and others:

Some of the outside men (shopkeepers at either side of the streets through and around the factories) have been entering the foreign factories and doing business directly. The foreigners are only allowed to trade with Hong merchants. The trade of outside men with foreigners is treason because it defrauds the Emperor of his revenue (i.e. this is not just a thrust at smuggling which is organised with Chinese dealers in the factories; the Hong merchants collect and remit duty but no mechanism is provided for the outside men to do so). But some Hong merchants are assisting these outside men for their own benefit. They form connections together. The outside man pretends to superintend the Hong’s business whilst actually carrying on his own. The cargo is imported and exported in the name of the Hong but is for the benefit of the outside man and the Linguists are bribed to connive at this. They forget that large debts for duty are accumulating and the Hong merchants will eventually be hurt.[85]

I order How Qua and the others to examine whether any shopmen are in the Hongs and to forthwith expel them. They may not continue their illicit commerce with the foreigners. If any disobey, their goods will be confiscated and the outside man will be handed over to the magistrate for punishment.

Linguists will also comply with the spirit of this Edict. When they learn of an outside man entering a Hong and dealing with a foreigner, the Linguist may not report their goods at the Customs House but will instead provide information to government so the goods can be confiscated. If the Linguist openly assents to this order whilst secretly opposing it, when he reports goods to the Customs House he will be discovered and severely punished.

Vol 1 No 10 – 8th March 1828

Editorial on Dialects:

Every province of China is like a separate country. Here in Canton we hear Mandarin, Cantonese and Fukienese. Mandarin is the formal Court language but is also used by the people generally in Peking. It is heard in Nanking and Szechuan and elsewhere but with considerable variety.

The Ching dynasty has introduced a Manchu pronunciation to Chinese. They use a soft ‘ch’ sound for ‘k’ making Peking (from the Cantonese Buk Ging) into Beijing. There is also a form of slang Mandarin which is used in the metropolis and widely affected by fashionable people throughout the Empire.

Fukienese is spoken in that province and by most of the settlers in Java, Manila, Bangkok and the Malacca Straits (and more recently Singapore). Fukienese is not only of different pronunciation; it also has many words peculiar only to it. The Rev Medhurst, a missionary on Java, has written a Fukienese dictionary which Sir Stamford Raffles intended to have printed in Singapore shortly before his death. Cantonese differs from Mandarin mainly in pronunciation. There are few Cantonese phrases that are not found in Mandarin.

In the Canton Register we use Cantonese Romanisations as the people we daily meet use this language. Dr Morrison is currently producing an alphabetical Cantonese dictionary. For the spelling of place names we suppose the forms used by D’Auville and Du Halde should be retained but for Cantonese names and places we will use Cantonese Romanisations.

Vol 1 No 10 – 8th March 1828

Malwa sales resumed at Canton on 19th February (after the Lunar New Year holiday) and prices advanced until one small sale was made at $1,450. Then the Globe arrived from Bombay with news that concerned the Parsees. They rushed to press small parcels of 5, 10 and 12 chests on the brokers at any terms and this brought prices down and checked demand which had been becoming lively.

The Bombay news was confirmed by the Hannah and prices have since dropped to $1,370 for Damaun and $1,380 for Company Malwa. Several coasting junks have taken supply of Malwa but demand from foreign holders has been less than expected. On this occasion the time bargains that Chinese made (title secured by a deposit for future delivery) have already been cleared and contributed considerably to the quantity required. The statistics follow and we only note that several large clearances in the first days of March will reduce stock-on-hand in our next monthly report.

A vessel from Calcutta has been ‘spoken with’ and carries a large quantity of Patna which is accordingly also depressed. There are desultory sales at $1,090.

Prices Current 8 March 1828 – Patna $1,090, Benares $1,100, Co Malwa and Damaun $1,330, Turkey $740

Consumption February (in chests):

Patna / Benares 205, Malwa 230. Value – Sp $ 551,600

Consumption April ‘27 – January ’28:

Patna / Benares 4,558, Malwa 3,749. Value – Sp $8,793,730

Stock-on-hand 1 March:

Patna / Benares 1,180, Malwa 645 chests

Vol 1 No 11 – Saturday 15th March 1828

Several people have suggested we publish weekly. We agree to publish extra numbers as often as appropriate but the information in our Prices Current can only appear fortnightly. The extra costs will be absorbed by us until initial subscriptions expire – they were all for six months.

Vol 1 No 11 – Saturday 15th March 1828

On 5th March at 8 am all the salt merchants and Hong merchants were assembled with the Manchu General and the Governor for re-opening of the seals of office after the New Year holidays. A salute was fired and the gates of the great court were thrown open.

Their excellencies appeared in full dress. The three senior officers are the Viceroy (Jung Duk), the Governor (Foo Yuen – soother of the people)[86] and the Jeung Gwan, the leader of the army, who is always a Manchu General.

These three have dined alternately at each other’s houses during the holidays and caroused, often until midnight. They have had parties at the White Cloud Hall to Ngau Tsau (literally ‘trouble the wine’). Ngau Tsau is a tumultuous drinking session that scandalises local villagers – they think it unbecoming.

A new provincial Judge is expected. He is known as Teet Meen Lo Fu (iron-faced tiger) and is expected to stop this carousing.

The new Hoppo has paused on his way south to spend New Year at Hangchow and is not expected to arrive within the first month of the year. There are few ships in port. According to the local merchants, the new Hoppo has the reputation of a ‘hungry’ man. One of the Hong merchants is rumoured to be bankrupt but the Governor, who is holding the Hoppo’s seal (i.e. acting for him), has resolved to do nothing until that officer arrives.

Vol 1 No 11 – Saturday 15th March 1828

The Chinese regard their fortified towns in the same light as we do in Europe and disallow foreigners to enter them except on special occasions. There is no legal restriction on walking in the suburbs but it has become customary for Europeans at Canton to be severely restricted. Occasionally the foreigners violate the rules and walk around the city walls, which is a popular exercise, but always at the risk of a scuffle with the local inhabitants. On past occasions foreigners have occasionally returned to the factories minus their clothes and valuables. An English baronet whilst out for a stroll was once robbed and stripped entirely naked.

The distance around the walls is estimated at 9 miles. A few days ago a party started at 6 am and completed the walk before 8 am without being disturbed at all. A few days earlier two men attempted the same walk in the evening and were violently assaulted by a rabble of men and boys. For the last few miles, the two foreigners were fighting a rear guard action on the run. We know the populace is hostile. We just mention these facts to put our readers on guard.

Vol 1 No 11 – Saturday 15th March 1828

On the last day of the old year a ferryboat from Canton, carrying a large party to the country for a holiday, overturned, reportedly due to excessive load. Over 40 people were drowned.

Vol 1 No 11 – Saturday 15th March 1828

On 22nd February 3 men were executed in the Fat Cheung (the ‘law’s arena’ – a field on the north bank of the river, east of the factories where executions take place). One was a murderer and the other two were robbers.

Confirmation of their sentences had arrived from Peking the day before. Normally no delay in execution is allowed but on that day the sentences were only carried out in the evening.

Vol 1 No 11 – Saturday 15th March 1828

The Hog Lane ferry to Honam:

We have been told that the poor people who operate this service pay a licence fee to the government to do so. Indeed, all the many ferries around Canton have to buy a licence from government to operate.

The late Hong merchant (Pun Ki Qua), who owns the Honam ferry service and the land on Honam where the other ferry pier is located, farms the revenue and gives a share to most of his domestics.

For the last year it has been proposed to pull-down a packing house opposite Pun Ki Qua Street on Honam and establish a better ferry pier on the site.

Vol 1 No 11 – Saturday 15th March 1828

The Asiatic Journal for September 1827 quotes a German paper concerning the rebellion in Western Tartary in which it is said the rebel leader Chang Ki Hur (Jahangir Khoja, also known as Ah Koo) had been killed and his brother has succeeded him. It says the people have resumed trading by caravan. Chinese sources do not confirm this yet.

Vol 1 No 11 – Saturday 15th March 1828

Two new gaming houses have been opened in the vicinity of the foreign factories, apparently to satisfy demand from our servants. This bodes unfavourably for their future integrity.

Vol 1 No 11 – Saturday 15th March 1828

Peking Gazettes:

  • Owing to Woolungo’s illness at Kashgar a successor has been appointed and the Residents at Koochai and Khoten have been changed.
  • The Manchu General at Kashgar, Chang Ling, has recommended several officers for promotion but his proposal was rejected by the Emperor.
  • A senior official of Governor-rank requested a specific posting so that he might be near his aged mother but the Emperor thought it a bad precedent and rejected it also.
  • In Shantung a depressed Heen magistrate hanged himself and his wife induced the local secretary to report that he had died of sickness. The truth was discovered and a suspicion arose that the suicide covered some maladministration but investigation has found nothing criminal.
  • Naem Ching, Viceroy of the North Western provinces, has successfully applied to have the period for sales of commissions in the army extended for another six months to the end of the 8th moon.
  • Volunteers are invited to transport supplies and ammunition to the army as the permanent officers are overwhelmed with other duties. Those who wish to provide their labour to government in this patriotic cause are to go to Kansu. On this invitation being published, a Chinese gentlemen well known to the foreign community here set off to help the Empire.

Foreign rumour has it that the rebel Jahangir Khoja is assisted by the Russians and the local gentleman just referred to asserts he has applied to Russia for 100,000 men. It is conceivable that Jahangir has some Russian officers with him who will naturally expect recognition should he succeed in his insurgency. Giving China the expense and trouble of keeping an army in the region is worth something to the Tsar.

Vol 1 No 11 – Saturday 15th March 1828

The Canton River used to be occupied by many boat people but the boats have since become the floating residences of prostitutes. Some of these girls are sold by their parents, others are stolen in childhood and a few were sold into slavery as a judicial punishment. We guess one or two in ten are practising their art willingly.

In Ah Chow’s bungalow are 30 – 40 prostitutes. One is Ah Kik, a native of Heung Shan, whose parents sold her to be a domestic servant from whence she came to Ah Chow. She fell in love with Wang and the couple vowed never to part but they were opposed, the vow could not be performed and they finally took poison.

Their bodies were found a few days ago in an eternal embrace. Wang’s parents understood their son’s feelings. They wrapped both bodies in a single shroud and placed them in a single coffin which they interred in a single grave.

Vol 1 No 11 – Saturday 15th March 1828

Study of Chinese language and culture:

Since the days of Bacon we have known that ‘knowledge is power’ yet the maxim has limitations. Knowledge is unavailing against physical force. It always confers greater power than ignorance. And it may be employed for good or evil. Knowledge held by a virtuous person confers greater power for good than either wealth or office. There is an abstract form of knowledge that is universally useful but specific knowledge is requisite for everyday life.

We consider the Chinese and Japanese reluctance to socialise with us is a moral and commercial evil and this is perpetuated by our ignorance of their language. Of the foreigners who have come to the Far East not one in a hundred has mastered an Eastern language to the extent he could converse with the people or government. Thus all communication is relayed through the medium of a few self-interested and ignorant natives (the Linguists) who speak a jargon of very limited vocabulary (China coast pidgin) that is primarily intended only to express the names and prices of items of commerce. Thus we trade and acquire large fortunes without understanding the language or culture of the people we are dealing with. On the liberal principles of commerce, a knowledge of the language of the people we trade with would be useful.

In fact it is surprising how long we merchants have remained ignorant and how many fundamental problems are attributed to the deficiency. The true cause of this ignorance has been firstly a want of patronage by the senior officers of each merchant house and secondly a love of ease amongst the young and inexperienced foreigners. It might be said that the old national monopoly companies felt no need but the country traders have operated here for many years and the Americans were never organised into a national monopoly. These two groups could have done more.

The Chinese government and people have always deterred foreigners from language study, doubtless on the principle that ‘ignorance is weakness’. The foreigners have never established a language school locally; indeed proprietors of foreign businesses do not encourage the study of literature or science. It is only religious zeal that has provided sufficient stimulus to propel individuals into the study of Chinese characters and literature. Study is now facilitated by the dictionaries of de Guigne and Morrison and the grammars of Marshman, Morrison and Remusat. The Anglo-Chinese College at Malacca provides European tutors. What we now need is a college in China itself. If the Russian Tsar can maintain a college in Peking, we united foreign traders at Canton should be capable of something similar. We just need to act together to make a China Academy – knowledge is power and union is strength.

Vol 1 No 11 – Saturday 15th March 1828

Chop boat is unintelligible in London. A chop means any written private or official document or simply the signature or mark upon such a document. Thus anything requiring an official permission must be ‘chopped’ i.e. stamped or signed evidencing the authorisation, before it is useful. A chop-boat is a lighter or junk that loads and unloads ships under a government permit. The etymology is unknown.

Vol 1 No 11 – Saturday 15th March 1828

We recently mentioned Fa Tei Gardens (on Honam Island opposite the factories). A few years ago we foreigners could visit them daily but some ships’ captains misbehaved in the presence of mandarins which induced Pun Ke Qua (the owner) to request the government to limit the days on which Europeans could visit. Thereafter Europeans visited on the 3rd and 8th of every 10 days (i.e. six times a month).

Those are the days on which the local people customarily submit their petitions to officials and accordingly the government officers have to stay at their offices to receive them. Thus the likelihood of mandarins accidentally meeting foreigners at Fa Tei has been minimised by the new arrangement.

Vol 1 No 11 – Saturday 15th March 1828

We now have confirmation that the Company has shipped 15,000 bales of cotton from Calcutta to Canton. Such a huge quantity at an unexpected time will collapse the market and suppress the value of any other new cotton when it arrives. Advice from both Bombay and Calcutta says the coming cotton crop is enormous. We will sustain great losses this season unless the Nanking crop fails.

Vol 1 No 11 – Saturday 15th March 1828

British piece goods remain low priced owing to large stocks but white goods and chintzes are popular. Handkerchiefs are overshipped and can only be sold below cost. We have been transhipping them from China to elsewhere in the Pacific.

Vol 1 No 12 – Saturday 22nd March 1828

The Poon Yu (or Whampoa) magistrate has been ordered by the provincial treasurer to collect bonds from and give licences to ships’ compradors. On his return from Macau, Governor Pak ordered that all compradors must join a mutual insurance scheme and wear about their waists a sealed badge of office from government. The badge is wooden and shows the comprador’s name and the magistrate attaches a seal to it. It is called a Yiu Pai Yin Chew. The purpose of the registration of compradors is to deter them from fraternising with foreigners.

The Poon Yu magistrate says an additional purpose is to better control the foreign shipping at Lintin (the outer waters) where Chinese in fishing boats and Tanka boats act as compradors supplying provisions to the foreigners, dealing in contraband, smuggling opium and other goods ashore and generally diminishing the national revenue. The people who will be licensed as real compradors are substantial people skilled in foreign languages who can give security for the job.

Vol 1 No 12 – Saturday 22nd March 1828

Provincial government changes – the Heung Shan Yuen is transferred and he is replaced by Law Hoi Yick.

The Macau Tso Tong is also transferred. Fung Lap Cheuk is promoted to replace him.[87]

Vol 1 No 12 – Saturday 22nd March 1828

On 9th March the Manchu General assembled his officers in the great hall to examine them personally prior to reporting on their fitness. That appears to have been a pretext. The real reason was to identify the highest bidders for jobs in the Customs House, which go to Manchus. These jobs are in the General’s gift.[88]

For example, the Macau inner harbour Customs House (the main Customs House in Macau) pays the General $1,000 – 1,200 a year. The Praia Grande Customs house (the little Customs House) pays less. The Customs officers are often induced to pay more money than they have, hence the extortions that characterise the first months of their tenures while they explore the possibilities of their jobs and maximise income.

Vol 1 No 12 – Saturday 22nd March 1828

A new judge has been appointed to Canton but he is trying an important case in Kiangsi and must report his award to Peking and await the Imperial response. He cannot come here until the case is concluded.

Vol 1 No 12 – Saturday 22nd March 1828

On 4th March a ‘nailed’ express (Cantonese ‘deng fung man shu’) was received. ‘Nailing’ is the process whereby two paper strips pass through the envelope from side to side and are sealed (nailed) together. The process makes it more difficult for a bearer to open the document or learn the letter’s contents. It is thus a confidential communication.

This letter required the immediate execution of two pirates who had sold protective passes to coasting boats, i.e. a paper that the trading junk displays on the mast for protection from piracy. They were forthwith led out. Yu Hing was unable to walk but Ching Yau Yan was laughing and talking excitedly. He called to Yu ‘don’t worry – in 16 years we will come back again’.

The execution ground is a small field. There is a pottery in one corner that makes small clay furnaces. Some lime is sprinkled on the ground before execution and afterwards the bodies are thrown up against a wall and a piece of matting put over them. The heads, which are often required for exhibition, are hung in little wooden cages pendant from the wall.

Vol 1 No 12 – Saturday 22nd March 1828

These days there are more executions in Canton than any other province (due to the allurement of piracy and smuggling). Twenty years ago the government considered the fact and consulted a geomancer to ascertain the cause. He said the soil of execution grounds determines the increase or diminution of crime, according to its fertility or sterility. At that time it had become too fertile, hence the crime wave.

The execution ground is outside the south gate of Canton but upon receipt of this advice it was moved to outside the north gate where the land is poorer. After several months it was noted that the number of executions had continued to increase and the geomancer’s former attribution of cause was discounted. The execution ground was then returned to its original location where it has remained ever since.

Vol 1 No 12 – Saturday 22nd March 1828

On 5th March at midnight there was a robbery at Shun Yuen village. The village squire named Yeung heard a knock on the door and a voice saying ‘the Shun Yuen magistrate has arrived’. He forthwith opened the door and 30-40 men ran in. They addressed each other as official (Low Yai) or police assistant (Chai Jik). All were armed. Some guarded the gate to Yeung’s premises while the others plundered the house of clothes and valuables to 5,000 Taels.

Yeung sent complaints to all the senior officers of the district the next morning, a process called Tung Pan (a means of indicating deep dissatisfaction and desire for redress) but they were all rejected as no official wished to acknowledge the expediency of a case in which the thieves called themselves officials and policemen. Petitions against officials are usually refused for this reason. The report must first be softened to a simple theft report before it is acceptable.

Vol 1 No 12 – Saturday 22nd March 1828

Editorial note – Borneo contains many thousands of Chinese and the Dutch assiduously try to extract a revenue from them.

Vol 1 No 12 – Saturday 22nd March 1828

Peking Gazettes – 40 banishees who assisted the Chinese garrison of Aksu to resist the Muslim rebels have been forgiven and are to be restored to their families.

In Peking a Manchu named Kwong Shen who attempted to ravish his daughter-in-law had his tongue bitten off by her. He accused her of wounding him but was unable to explain why his tongue was in her mouth. She was discharged and he himself sentenced to receive 100 blows and be transported to the frontier.

The Censor Sing Sze Poon reports that a plaintiff and defendant, being remanded together, fell to blows and the defendant died. The Emperor finds the dispute itself trivial but the magistrate Sung Pui Tso was careless in confining disputants together and not providing a guard to watch them. He also delayed the resolution of their case for several days.

He is ordered to interrogated with grinding torture to ascertain the true facts.

Vol 1 No 12 – Saturday 22nd March 1828

At the time of the Macartney embassy there was no chaplain attached. In those days the merchants of England were concerned not to offend the Chinese so the embassy held no public prayer meetings. Macartney went out of his way to tell the Kien Lung Emperor that Roman Catholics sought to convert his people to Christianity but the English had no such wish. He told the Emperor as a proof that “I have not allowed a chaplain to be attached to my embassy”

Vol 1 No 12 – Saturday 22nd March 1828

‘All the western outposts in the Far East now have newspapers except Manila. Catholics routinely blame the church for gagging the press. Catholic countries are the most opposed to free discussion.’

Vol 1 No 12 – Saturday 22nd March 1828

The Letitia has arrived from Damaun on 15th March with a cargo of Malwa. Sales of Patna and Malwa have been declining. Patna was sold this week as low as $980 and Company Malwa at $1,260. Some Benares was done at $1,000.

Only 134 chests of Patna/ Benares and 171 of Malwa have been cleared from the Lintin store-ships this week.

Vol 1 No 12 – Saturday 22nd March 1828

There is so little trade at this time of year that we are omitting a Prices Current from this issue.

Vol 1 No 12 – Saturday 22nd March 1828

Mrs Martha da Silva Meirop died at Macau 8th March. She bequeathed $20,000 to the poor house; $20,000 to the Macau Hospital, $20,000 to the Leal Senado; $10,000 to the Convent of St Francis, $5,000 to the nuns of St Francis and other minor legacies of totally $10,000 plus a further $1,000 for masses. The residue (c. $40,000) of her estate goes to a Malay slave girl of about 20 years of age.[89]

Vol 1 No 13 – 29th March 1828

Kung Sor (Consoo) means a public assembly place. They are numerous and many can be found in Canton – the oil merchants’ hall, apothecaries’ hall, Peking fruit merchants’ hall are all called Kung Sor. Merchants from other provinces also have halls – Fei Chau Hall is for the green tea men, Ningpo Hall is self-explanatory, traders from the northwest provinces have the San Sai (Shansi) Hall.[90] They are used for meetings of members of the whole trade and absentees may be fined for non-attendance. The members subscribe to meet the public expenses of the hall and can commence legal proceedings on behalf of their guild.

The Hong merchants also have an Oi Kwoon or Kung Sor. It was burned down in the great fire of 1822 and has not yet been rebuilt as the Hong merchants consider the site unlucky and seek a more auspicious venue for their meetings.

The Hong merchants’ Consoo operates a fund to meet any unexpected exactions of the Hoppo or the government – for the repair of the Yellow River banks for example and for the settlement of debts of insolvent members. As no insolvency has occurred for many years, the accumulation of this fund should be considerable. The Consoo fund is intended to instantly satisfy the trading claims of foreigners. It establishes confidence in the Canton system which would otherwise be weakened by regular business failures. It was established long ago consequent upon a widespread failure of Hong merchants and is funded by an additional tax that the foreign merchants ‘pay’ on goods landed. This tax is not collected for the government – the arrangement is informally operated by the Hong merchants themselves.

Unfortunately these prudent considerations have been perverted by the advantage of the moment. The tax was collected for a long time and supposedly deposited in the Consoo treasury but is widely said to have been co-opted by the leading Hong merchant (How Qua Jr) for his own use. Since then the tax has continued to be paid by foreigners to their Hong merchant but is not deposited in the treasury which remains empty. Thus at present any sudden demands on the Hong merchants is met by a levy on all of them and not from the (non-existent) Consoo fund.

This additional tax is set in proportion to each Hong merchant’s share of the foreign trade (assessed on the amount of import duty he has collected for the Hoppo – another reason to reduce dutiable inventory by aligning with an outside man). This annual payment of duty of itself often brings about the ruin of an unthinking Hong merchant.[91] The Hong merchants no doubt had a good and valid reason for removing the funds from the Consoo treasury – had it not been done, the money would now amount to an enormous sum and would have attracted the attention of the officials. They might have been tempted to practise arbitrary acts of injustice to get their hands on it. Money on the China coast normally earns interest at 10% but even at 8% the Consoo fund, if it was really collected into a fund, would have grown into a huge amount.

For the good of foreign merchants, for whose welfare this fund was in part originally intended, it should be re-instated. If a security merchant failed today, his debts cannot be immediately liquidated but instead time is requested for their settlement and no interest is payable after bankruptcy. Much prevarication attends the winding-up of a failed Hong merchant’s affairs. We have examples of waiting ten years to recover a part of what is owed.

Vol 1 No 13 – 29th March 1828

An occasional news-sheet is published at Canton with translations of documents from the Peking Gazettes. The Edict in our last issue, requesting volunteers for Tartary, was from it.

The following moral tale came to us from the same source:

A young woman named Ling (literally – cold) in Poon Yu was married to a Cantonese named Kwan. She became cruel and during the next seven years beat to death four slave girls.

One day I reported her cruelty to two of her uncles. They ground their teeth in indignation and said I had under-rated her violence – she had in fact beaten to death 15 slave girls.

I thought to myself that justice demanded retribution. Well, last year in the twelfth month she became ill, her body became putrid, she exuded a foul smell and was in continual pain. The flesh fell from her bones and she died yesterday.

Vol 1 No 13 – 29th March 1828

Local news – On the south side of Canton in Tung Wang Street live 50 families. In the month after Lunar New Year, seven women and girls from this single street committed suicide.

On the west side of the town lives a 70 years old widow. She is poor and does needlework and washes clothes for her subsistence. Recently she fell behind in her rent and when arrears reached 5-6 months, her landlord took the roof off her house to encourage her to leave. On failing in this, he seized clothes that had been left with her for washing. This so overcame her that she hanged herself from a beam. She had a son who hawked in the streets. When he came home that night he found his mother dead. He left her suspended body there so the landlord could be brought to the scene and be better induced to pay compensation. After four days the landlord paid nothing and the widow could not be left hanging any longer. The son had no choice but to call the magistrate (always a last step) who found the seizure of clothes was illegal and ordered the landlord to pay for a coffin and interment.

Vol 1 No 13 – 29th March 1828

Two rebels from Turkestan, O Lea Haan and Mai Man Ta Lee, (these are Chinese forms of Muslim names) are to be punished.

O Lea Haan admits he is the nephew of the rebel leader Chang Ki Hur (Jahangir Khoja). He accompanied his mother to Gaantse to live. Last year Mai Man Ta Lee was ordered to take O Lea Haan to Kashgar where he was caught by the Imperial army.

Mai Man Ta Lee admitted that O Lea Haan is his friend. Last year when Chang Ki Hur took Kashgar, he was told by the Pih Kih of Hao Baan to take O Lea Haan there. He then worked feeding horses in Kashgar but did not meet Chang or fight in his army.

The law requires that minors 11 – 15 years old who have been implicated in rebellion are to be imprisoned until 15 years old then transported to Ili. Another law provides that all people plotting revolution are to be beheaded. A third provides that all people who have been forced to join rebels but have not opposed the army and have voluntarily surrendered at the first opportunity shall be only transported to the new Imperial lands (Sinkiang) as slaves.

O Lea Haan is 12 years old. He will be imprisoned until his 16th birthday when the Imperial pleasure will again be requested.

Mai Man Ta Lee knew that the rebel Chang had captured four cities and he took the boy to the rebel’s camp. He was not forced to join Chang. He worked in Kashgar and thus aided Chang Ki Hur. He is to be instantly decapitated. However he recognises the rebel Chang and can identify him to us. Therefore he will be imprisoned until Chang is captured. After identification both will be executed.

Vol 1 No 13 – 29th March 1828

Imperial Edict:

“Pin Tsing, the late Resident at Kashgar (and one of the Imperial clan), appeared before the criminal board at Peking charged with failing to soothe and nurture the people and thus provoking revolution. He was sentenced to decapitation after a period of imprisonment to reflect.

“See Poo Ching was also an official at Kashgar when Jahangir entered the country and is accordingly charged with a failure in military management. He is guilty and will be beheaded.

“Had these crimes become known immediately they occurred, the sentences would be just but the events took place several years ago, the evidence is incomplete and neither criminal has confessed. In these circumstances I (the Emperor) exercise clemency. Pin Tsing is to be confined within bare walls for the rest of his life. See Poo Ching will be imprisoned for ever. Thus I show my benevolence.”

Vol 1 No 13 – 29th March 1828

Yesterday the Foo Yuen received the Imperial bestowal upon himself of the character for ‘happiness’ (written in the Emperor’s hand on silk) together with a haunch of venison. The required response in such cases is for the Foo Yuen to open his gates and publicly perform the triple kow-tow towards Peking.

The Viceroy announces that an official stamp should be affixed to paper prayers (not silk) and that they be presented with sacrifices at the temples of various Gods by civilians on behalf of the government to celebrate the Spring festival (Editor – this sounds like a squeeze). The Gods of Literature, of the Air, of Earth, of Heaven and Confucius are all to be honoured. After appropriate prostrations the prayers are to be burned to transfer them into the God’s possession.

On Sunday, the 8th day of this moon, the Foo Yuen and other officials assembled at the Temple before the altars to the Gods of Heaven and Earth to sacrifice and worship. Some inferior officials worshipped the God of the Air.

Vol 1 No 13 – 29th March 1828

Local news – On 28th March the Nam Hoi Yuen interrogated a bankrupt Hong merchant (Man Hop) as to how he had disposed of a huge amount of cotton without receiving any payment, as he alleges. (This refers to a complaint by Magniac & Co that develops below)

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. See the Economy chapter for the full article.
  2. The original and rather longer excerpt of these lyrical statements is in the Asia Economy chapter. The books itself, whilst out-of-print has recently (March 2011) been digitalised by Google and may now be read on-line.
  3. Most of these goodies were found by Elgin 60+ years later after the 2nd Opium War, stored unused in the Yuan Ming Yuan.
  4. Ships operated by British residents of India under licence of the Company – its called the country trade.
  5. The magistrate of Heung Shan Island, now called Chung Shan. It contains Macau on its south coast.
  6. Ah Po Tsai, the eastern fleet commander referred to in this article is probably Cheung Po Tsai, the pirate who, after amnesty in 1810, joined the Fukien coast guard and exposed details of the Macau-based smuggling system of the foreigners to the Viceroy of that Province. He died in 1826. He was connected with the ‘Ladrone Island’ of Cheung Chau and today is a romantic figure to the tourist industry of Hong Kong.
  7. The same honorific was later given to Governor Choo Kwei Chen and Commissioner Lin to express the widespread confidence in their honesty and diligence.
  8. San Chuan Island, Romanised as St John, was the original centre of European trade with China. It was a smuggling base to which the Portuguese were introduced by the Arabs. St Francis Xavier is buried there. The Jesuits still maintain a church there
  9. The Tael (Cantonese – lerng) is one and a third ounces avdp. Silver metal and copper coins are the currency of China. 9 Taels is therefore 12 ounces of silver.
  10. By comparison, the procedure for presentation at St James was for the presenter to bow to the waist at the door, bow again halfway to H M and bow a third time in front of H M’s dias. It was done on entry and backwards on exit.
  11. He stayed at Calcutta lecturing on chemistry and mathematics until 1806.
  12. Shaw opened American trade at Canton immediately after the War of Independence. Foster Dulles’ book ‘The Old China Trade’, 1930, provides useful background. The Dulles’ family fortune came from China.
  13. See the Asia chapters for better details of the Dutch sell-off in anticipation of British occupation of Dutch Asian colonies.
  14. The China-trade expression ‘old head’ dollars refers to Spanish dollars with King Carlos’ likeness. They are preferred for their reliable silver content, regularly over 97%.
  15. The good exchange rate reveals the Company’s need for silver. Canton rates are commonly quite miserly and often have to be adjusted to attract investment.
  16. Note the country traders impliedly maintained accounts in Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Note also a rare surplus of Rupees at Canton.
  17. There is no trace of this $1 million in Morse “Chronicles of the East India Company Trading to China” but he mentions the Company was at this time heavily indebted to Hong merchants in over 3 million Taels of silver.
  18. Staunton’s book is already (1797) out-of-date in respect of English taxation which soon reaches five times the level applied in Napoleonic France.
  19. The Chinese ‘five grains’ differ according to the authority consulted. One says rice, wheat, soy and red and white millet, others include barley, sorghum, even American maize. Samuel Couling (Encyclopedia Sinica) has hemp, millet, rice, corn and beans. The Kien Lung Emperor’s substitution of a poll tax replacing the land tax was probably forced upon him by his relatives. It is an unexpected reversal of prior policy. The Yung Ching Emperor taxed the land-owners. There was a uniform dynastic policy of taxing the wealthy prior to this poll tax.
  20. The Directors have engaged with Dundas to ship 24 large ships of Indian rice to London. The shipment will comprise totally about 18,000 tons. This is the proximate reason there is inadequate shipping for China. In May Penang will similarly advertise for private tonnage to ship Penang goods to Canton. The previous permission to ship 3,000 tons annually from London to India and back was strictly controlled by the Company – it chartered the ships, received the freight and stored the goods in its own warehouses either end. This present exercise is so much bigger it is a nice question whether the Company can completely protect its monopoly. Dundas is always trying to create competition for efficiency.
  21. Peking’s information on this invasion was relayed by numerous signal towers which may have been the template for the French long-distance signalling systems created in the Revolutionary War.
  22. The Hongs never liked Bills. How Qua’s foreign trade through Cushing’s nominee service only started in 1805. Prior to that, no Hong merchant needed to accumulate funds in London or Calcutta – they could not liquidate Bills quickly enough. They discounted them when received in payment for foreign purchases and willingly sold them off at up to 20 – 30% discount if things were really tight. It was one of the great money earners of the Select Committee members and later How Qua – buying discounted Company Bills from Hongs and sending them to London / Calcutta for collection of the full amount.
  23. There is the existing privileged cargoes of ships’ officers in tea and silk from China to India and the coastal Chinese junk trade in all sorts of Chinese produce to South East Asia either or both of which could become a loophole in the Company’s restraint on access to China trade. There is already a tea trade to Amsterdam and Hamburg done mainly by the Americans in peace time which puts fine China teas into the European market at half the British prices. Fortunately the Company has been able to rely on the Hong merchants to supply good quality to itself but some of those Chinese merchants, most notably How Qua, will shortly become willing, with American help, to oppose the Company’s requirement for restraint of trade.
  24. Evoking the Masonic-type illuminati movement in Bavaria that was briefly mentioned in the Europe chapter. This is a manifestation of a triad society. In Hong Kong today, Masons are known as the Gwailo (foreigners’) Triad Society.
  25. These figures indicate both the immense costs that the Company purports to incur on its trade and the immense profits. The China trade purchases are primarily tea, raw silk and nankeens for approximately £500,000 each year. Auction proceeds in London multiply this investment seven or eight times upon which inflated figure the government takes a 90% tax revenue. The freight on Company ships and all its other expenses are absurdly high. The reader should recall that a China writership costs the new employee up to £10,000. Its the most expensive job the Company has to offer.
  26. The major waterway west of Macau.
  27. This appears to have been an expectation of the Editor. Peach was No 2 to Drummond in 1804 and should have succeeded him but returned home sick that year and does not reappear. Drummond left in January 1807 and thereafter Roberts was President until December 1810.
  28. At the entrance to the Inner Harbour of Macau.
  29. The mention of ‘prickliness’ is apposite. The English used ‘prickliness’ to get better treatment from the socially-minded Chinese.
  30. See the South America chapter for Popham’s invasion of Buenos Aires and brief details of the Company’s trade in artisans and opium to Trinidad.
  31. The Company has been persuaded to reopen its Agency business at Canton. This Agency sells Indian cotton and opium on commission basis for the Calcutta speculators who are not themselves otherwise represented in China. Young Baring, of the well-known banking family, is the manager.
  32. This is an unusually large-value consignment for one ship and probably evidences a lack of shipping available to Portuguese merchants or the existence of a cartel.
  33. The British discovered, first in Penang, that the Chinese were both astonishingly industrious and willing to pay taxes. This has led to their being preferred in all those British Colonies at which they could be induced to stay.
  34. This prevents the country traders from accumulating profits of their China-trade in London. They have been using London capital to fund their China-trade under the new Regulations permitting their access to London trade, thus undermining the foundation of the Company’s financial power. Now they cannot remit to London, the City bankers cannot be directly secured and will have to appoint Agents in India on commission-sharing basis. No other European country can supply Bills. The country trade will remit to India or carry the risk of freighting specie there themselves.
  35. Private treasure is loaded in the estuary, commonly at Lintin, where the country traders do their business. Once that is on board, HMS Modeste will carry totally £2 millions in silver to Calcutta. It is likely that the greater proceeds of Company trade over country trade this year is due to the re-establishment of the Agency House under George Baring. It later becomes the Company’s policy to load sycee at Lintin in view of its illegality. Lintin is said to be “in the outer waters,” i.e. beyond Chinese jurisdiction
  36. The tone of this Notice is delightful – an application to the responsibility of the ship master. It does seem that ship-masters were islands of integrity in those days
  37. A small island with a 12-month fresh water supply situated in the middle of the Pearl estuary. The name is derived from the characters for ‘solitary nail’ and is sometimes used these days to refer to a widower. Lintin is popular with both Chinese and foreign smugglers who are served by residents of the large village there.
  38. I included this article because the fearful attitude of Europeans to Chinese that is apparent in it was still current in 1960s when I arrived in Hong Kong – ‘the fear of being Shanghaied’ it was called. It was kept alive by the 3-4 British companies dominating the Hong Kong economy. Perhaps the International Settlement in Shanghai was like that but Hong Kong is a safe city. The mention of pirates on Lintin is a reference to the smugglers who carried foreign contraband from the island into the Delta. They were sometime farmers, fishermen, smugglers or pirates depending on circumstances.
  39. See the North America chapter for details of US responses to the British Navigation Acts and Orders-in-Council made under it.
  40. Wilcocks was said on his retirement from China to have deducted $300,000 from his debts to Hong merchants on account of this loss.
  41. The China writerships are the crème de la crème. They are more expensive than the Indian ones and head the tariff of Company jobs. The Editor laments that a considerable number of young men who bought their appointments may be obliged by the disclosures in this investigation to surrender them and return to England. The committee has recommended that bonds be taken from the parents or guardians of new writers / cadets. They will be called-in if purchase of office is discovered later.
  42. This is an early mention of Malwa in Bombay Courier as an export commodity to China. It refers to opium grown in the Mahratta states and distributed from Ujjain and Indore. It mostly travelled down the Nerbudda River to Damaun for export, strangely unimpeded by the Company’s revenue stations along its course. The Spanish dollar is one ounce of 97% silver; the Tael is one and a third ounces of 99% silver (Fanfoo sycee).
  43. This relates to recent British assumption of the government of Portugal at commencement of the Peninsular War. The Portuguese King and government have gone to Brazil leaving British officers, using Portuguese names, in command of the country and its colonies. It was this event that encouraged Admiral Drury to attempt the occupation of Macau by Britain.
  44. A likely reference to the Marquis of Ely affair. Although the arms were not delivered, the kidnapping of the Marquis of Ely officer Richard Glasspoole for 80 days is so unusual that a book was written on the matter by his relative Raymond Glasspoole and is still available. Glasspoole was ransomed by the Company.
  45. How Qua (Cantonese – Ho Gwoon) was the name used by father and son. Their family names in Cantonese were Ng Kwok Lung and Ng Bing Garm. They appear below as How Qua and How Qua Jr. Their business was called Yee Wor Hong. This trading name was co-opted by Jardine Matheson & Co after the Opium War.
  46. The Ching Emperors took an early interest in Tibet after the Mongol tribes embraced Lama Buddhism as their religion. Tibetans found vassal status was rewarding for the presents received in Peking and their tributary embassies, in pursuit of trade, became very large. The Ching built a replica of the Potala palace at Jehol to advertise the connection with Lhasa and obtain better relations with the northern tribes.
  47. This piracy information might mislead – the recent British problem with the pirates was the kidnapping of Glasspoole of the Marquis of Ely Indiaman, the ship that was supposed to bring guns to Canton, but he has just been ransomed for $7,000; another contemporary problem involved an attack on one of the boats of the Sir Edward Pellow crewed by Lascars under a European officer. This boat was transporting silver from the factories to the ship at Whampoa when a pirate boat came alongside in broad daylight, threw away the officer, killed several Lascars and removed a good part of the treasure. Captain Austin of the St Albans was coincidentally then sailing down to Chuen Pi to join his ship and witnessed the attack. He rescued the drowning European. This fortunate coincidence was accompanied by another unusual feature – the supposed pirate boat was not a regular pirate but a boat from Canton. Finally, the pirate chief mentioned is Cheung Po Chai who is commonly associated with Cheung Chau Island south of Lantau on the eastern side of the Pearl Estuary where he was said to be sometimes based. Cheung Chau Island was the usual base of pirates predating on the trade of the fledgling crown colony of HongKong in 1840s
  48. This mention of Linguists requires an explanatory note. Their duties, quite apart from interpreting, are set out in an article dated 14th September 1843. They each trade as both Linguists and merchants under a variety of names. Ah Tom or Old Tom is also known as Kwan Ho and Foon Wo; Alan Tsai is Ching Wo; Old Ah Ming or Ah Ming Chow became the Hong merchant Wan Chong Hong; Young Tom is also Wo Sheung, Ah Heen or Ah Pun both appear to be names of Ho Pun or Yuen Fu; Young Ah Heen is Shun Wo. Ah Cheung and Ah Tung are also mentioned without further particulars.
  49. The pirates are taken on government strength as coast guards in Fukien Province and prove rather effective. Their services are actually in demand by both the governments of the maritime provinces and the foreign traders at Canton.
  50. Now called Chung Shan, the island on which Macau is located.
  51. Part of the Judge’s deal may have been an offer of alternative employment – carrying foreign goods into China.
  52. In the next edition there is a list of subscribers. The Governor Duncan takes four copies, Charles Forbes the same and a long list of other gentlemen take one or two.
  53. The British response to the Macau Judge’s attempt to engross Malwa opium distribution has been the opening of sales of Company opium at Whampoa. The Amethyst (Chimenant) is the first receiving ship, a floating warehouse more or less immune to Chinese government control.
  54. This is the extent of the interest group that engrosses and distributes China goods. They are concerned about the effect of renewal terms on the India Company’s monopoly of Asian trade.
  55. The British Government restricts China-trade to London to control its revenue from tea. The India Company’s use of very big ships for the trade is due to the same reason. Their inability to enter most ports is the advantage sought. The Chinese Government likewise restricts foreign trade to Canton.
  56. This article is included for Sorabjee’s stated ownership of an office and warehouse in China. It is the only evidence I have found in the newspaper to support the suggestion that the Company owned its Canton factory. It was known to have provided the building materials for it. There is some anecdotal information on this in Earl Grey’s diary later in this work. It was always a basic Chinese rule that foreigners obtain no permanent rights to land or buildings in China.
  57. Firstly, The mention of sespits surprised me. I had hitherto thought the collection of excreta  was a communal matter. Han Suyin refers to the man controlling the loo being the second richest man in the village. Villagers were instructed to use three handfuls of rice straw each time to provide the correct mix for the vegetable fields. Secondly, this article introduces a delightful aspect of Chinese thought. When natural disasters occur, or at least when the government response to them is unsatisfactory, it is evidence that the Emperor has lost the goodwill of Heaven. It is thus grounds for rebellion. The common phrase is ‘the Emperor rules justly, the people obey; the Emperor rules unjustly, the people rebel’. That was the social contract in China.
  58. Its not formally allowed but officers often go quail hunting and walking and crews are allowed ashore for drinking and eating. It seems to have been the company’s privileged tonnage allowance that disabled the ships’ officers from supervising their crews ashore. There is a famous steakhouse on the Whampoa waterfront wholly patronised by men from the foreign shipping.
  59. All the silver shipments routinely travel in the opposite direction these days but the Select at Canton is concerned for its ability to fund the tea purchases this year. Normally they would recycle silver brought by the Americans.
  60. This may be the linguist called Ayew or Le Yew in Morse’s Chronicles for the 1814 season who took the Company’s presents to Peking for Viceroy Sung and was subsequently arrested and punished for assisting foreigners and worshipping Christianity. He escaped the second charge by resolutedly trampling the cross but was banished to Ili. See Morse Vol III for full details.
  61. We cannot simply go away as the Emperor has suggested. The King, British government and the Company are dependent on the proceeds of China-trade. Tea imports are so astonishingly profitable, they are the reason the power centres are united in keeping private British merchants out to prevent competition developing. They continue to do so until mercantile power based on loans to government becomes irresistible. At that time the merchants’ unwillingness to pay tax is necessarily adopted as national policy and called ‘free trade’. The former consumption taxes were cancelled and government revenue was instead transferred to a tax on labour – income tax
  62. Ili is the frontier post at Kuldja (I Ning) that protects the northern route from Samarkand and the west.
  63. The beginning of the ‘receiving ship’ procedure. This action against opium is due to the old pirate Cheung Po Chai, who has reported the structure of the Macau opium distribution network to the Governor of Fukien. He in turn passed the information on to Canton. As it is an inter-provincial matter, it cannot be glossed over. This enforcement action at Macau more or less terminates that enclave’s control of opium distribution that had so diligently been established by Judge Arriaga.
  64. After the numerous arrests of Dutch merchantmen by British warships up to 1806.
  65. The Turkish opium has a higher (10%) morphine content and is found unsuitable for smoking. It is used as medicine, for baking and for blending with the milder Indian supply. Bombay cotton is grown in the Maratha states and has a shorter staple than the Bengal supply. It accordingly requires spinning into thicker thread suitable for heavier cloth.
  66. This is an early reference in Bombay Courier to Malwa selling in China. Malwa is a productive area of the Maratha states shared between the Chiefs – Sindhia and Holkar. Its foreign trade is through Bombay. The Marathas have been devalued by war with the Company. The Bombay government has recently proscribed opium smuggling and set a prohibitive duty on its import to the Presidency. The introduction of Malwa to China is concurrent with the opening of Asia to British free-traders. It is also the case that Indian staple exports of indigo and cotton are over-produced and the speculative money is turning increasingly to opium. The UK market for most Indian staples is closed by the high Customs tariff. The Company’s monopoly of the Ganges opium supply has disconnected sale price from cost price and this has stimulated all competitive producers.
  67. This early example of diplomatic cover becomes a common feature of the pre-treaty China trade to evade the Company’s licensing restrictions on access. Austrian, Danish and Prussian representation is available too.
  68. I put this article in the China chapter to illustrate that the attractions of Chinese vassalship extended across the Himalaya.
  69. I recall visiting Anne Hathaway’s cottage near Stratford-on-Avon in about 1960. The garden was preserved in late 16th century style. The only really attractive flower was the rose. British gardens today contain mostly foreign shrubs and flowers, a majority of them from China.
  70. Only the Company has the capacity to buy silver in large quantities with its reliable Bills. Dutch and Danish Bills are less convenient as payment is in Amsterdam / Copenhagen. The Americans bring much of the silver for their purchases and the Chinese use it to buy smuggled goods from the country traders who then recycle it to the Company for Bills on either Calcutta (for extra supply of cotton / opium) or London (for commercial and personal investment). The Company sells as many Bills as necessary to amass sufficient silver to buy tea and silk for its London auctions.
  71. Resulting from this financial loss, the Company procured an Admiralty Order to the East Indies fleet to stay away from China.
  72. This is exactly what the Directors constantly fear. The Royal Navy has interrupted trade, goods should have been converted to cash but have not, inadequate funds mean the tea supply is inferior (whether there was bad weather or not) and the London auctions will be contentious. The whole commercial operation is jeopardised.
  73. Mansfield Forbes is a partner in Remington Crawford & Co of Bombay. The other partners are James Gathorne Remington, James Henry Crawford (the Bombay Judge) and Matthew Theodosius Dennis de Vitre. The last-named was a fellow juryman with Jardine at the Bombay sessions.
  74. The reader should review the Opium chapter for the distinction between Damaun and Company Malwa.
  75. The name Hoppo is derived from Hoi Bo – Cantonese abbreviation for the Board of Revenue (Maritime Customs) at Peking.
  76. This is the residue of debris from the great fire of 1822. It was heaped up in the square but not removed. It has been burrowed into and made home by some beggars.
  77. The Spanish surrendered the Amoy trade to Fukienese traders who came regularly to Manila and formed the large Chinese community of that city.
  78. Pawnbrokers are distinguished by the sign of the hanging bat over their shop entrances. Their premises are the few multi-storey windowless buildings that are readily apparent in any 19th century picture of a Chinese city. In 1960s Hong Kong it was still common for new immigrants to pawn their winter clothes in summer (and I suppose vice versa).
    Facilities for money transfers were available nationwide from Shansi business groups who had built sufficient capital (from salt trading and provisioning the Chinese army on the northern frontier) to place men in all the major cities of the Empire. They had a Consoo in Canton. See the CCTV-2 series Shanxi Businessmen.
  79. To preclude fraternisation, the Chinese service to foreign traders is an all-encompassing one and fees are not onerous although the Linguist’s duties definitely are.
  80. It is the Editor’s assertion that the revenue system focuses on taxing the trade of the foreigners not the foreign trade.
  81. I believe the Editor is harking back two generations to 1784 when a country ship ‘Lady Hughes’ was discharging a salute at the same time that a chop boat came alongside passed one of the gunports. Three Chinese occupants in the chop boat were seriously injured and one later died. The involved gunner, an old man who had been acting under orders, was eventually surrendered to the Foo Yuen in Canton pending for the Emperor’s pleasure but 10 days later was strangled.
  82. Producing no son, lewdness, not serving her parents-in-law, loquacity, theft, envy, noxious disease. These are modified in three circumstances – during the three years of mourning for a parent, if the couple were first poor but have since become rich or if the wife no longer has a home to return to.
  83. An old popular saying is ‘in the whole of your life, never let your foot cross the official’s threshold.
  84. The reference to abuse on landing at Macau refers to the little Customs House on the Praia Grande which was a joint Immigration and Customs station for individuals and their baggage. Cargo was landed at the main Customs House at the inner harbour.
  85. The Hong merchants are liable to pay duty to the Hoppo on both imports and exports and recover it from the foreigners. By selling foreign goods to outside men for distribution to local retailers (on which no duty has been paid) they get a price advantage allowing a bigger profit.
  86. The Foo from Sun Foo signifying Governor and the Yuen from Tiu Cha Yuen signifying the Censorate, which two functions were commonly joined in provincial Governors according to Hucker ‘Official Titles in Imperial China’
  87. The Yuen is a non-specific term for an official, in this case referring to the Heen or district magistrate based at Casa Branca. The Tso Tong is the district vice-Magistrate. See Hucker ‘Official Titles in Imperial China’.
  88. It is a feature of Ching dynasty administration that revenue officers seem to be all Manchu. Morse notes the Canton Hoppo is always a Boyi-clan Manchu dedicated to the Emperor’s interests.
  89. The main sources of wealth in Macau are now drugs, gambling & prostitution – rich women either inherit their wealth or run gaming houses, brothels and divans
  90. This last is the Hall of those Shansi merchants who operate a nation-wide banking business unknown to the foreign trade. They issue Bills in one city for payment in another.
  91. Liability for export taxes arises on export and is paid instantly; liability for import taxes is allowed to accumulate and paid-off annually.

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