China 1839-1840 – part 10

Vol 12 No 52 – 31st December 1839

Lin’s Edict against British trans-shipped goods, 18th December:

I formerly advised that the stoppage of British trade would occur on 6th December. The trade of all the other countries continues but it is not allowed for them to receive British goods by trans-shipment and thus help the British to take a profit from China.

The senior and junior Security merchants will enjoin this order on the American Consul Snow. He must visit each of his nation’s ships as they arrive and certify their goods are not carried on behalf of the English. He will hand his certificate to the relevant Hong merchant to give to the Keunmin foo of Macau before the American ship enters the river. He will make a bond agreeing to the confiscation of the ship and cargo should it be found to contain English goods, wherever they may have been loaded, and forward it to the Hong merchants for me.

The Dutch Consul has left China and the Prussians, Swedes, Danes, Hamburghers and French have no current representation.1 The Hong merchants will devise a plan to bring these nations within the same arrangement. This regulation is solely intended to prevent further importation of opium. The English refuse to sign the bond voluntarily foregoing opium trade and instead are actively selling the newly arrived supply. I must stop their entire trade to prevent their bringing any more opium. This will also act as a warning to other foreigners to respect our law.

All you foreigners should beware – do not play with the law hoping for some trifling advantage when illegality might cause your entire trade to be stopped. The Security merchants will make haste, fix the procedures and send Snow’s bond to me.

Vol 12 No 52 – 31st December 1839

Lin’s Edict to Elliot, 18th December:

You ask for peace. You assert a high respect for our law. You say everything is in confusion and you feel sad. You request that the English may bring their families back to Macau to live. You cannot make any commitments until you receive the orders of your sovereign. You refer to two centuries of British trade here and ask that the legal trade may resume and that the laws of China and England be respected.

On reviewing your petition I agree England has long traded here. That is why we were unwilling to precipitately cut off your trade. But your people continue to smuggle opium and bring catastrophe on their customers. This made the Emperor angry. We have given you the New Regulations which are solely intended to stop your opium trade. A bond is required that your people will only conduct legal trade. Had it been provided you might have completed this year’s trade long ago.

Why do you talk of peace and respect?

The English ships were prevented from entering port by you. You are responsible for whatever deterioration has occurred to the cargo they bring. If you had not kept your ships outside the river, the affray at Tsim Sha Tsui would not have occurred and Lam Wai Hei would still be alive. This case of murder falls to you as the leader of the English to settle. Deliver the murderer. That is our law.

Regarding English people living at Macau, the purpose of such residence is for them to attend to their business but you have kept their ships out of the river. How can they have any trade? You used to live in Macau, then you went to Kowloon and to Chuen Pi and at each place you were the first to fire your guns and commence hostilities. And you ask for peace?

You are distinctly informed that the river and port of Canton is closed to the English and China will have no further trade with your nation. You have brought this upon yourself. We do not act without cause. You have had months to repent but only now do you assert a respect for our law. Is this a little late?

You say you await your sovereign’s instructions. Was preventing the English ships from opening trade, sheltering the murderer, firing your guns at us and stirring the embers of war, were these your acts or were they commanded by your sovereign?

It seems you can do anything, with or without instructions. One of your countrymen named Towns was living at Macau with his family. You forced this obedient man and his family to leave Macau but you now ask that the rebellious English law-breakers be allowed to return there. This is utter confusion.

You have told us the laws of England are founded upon foreign trade. Your way in trade has caused the exclusion of your people from China and we will never voluntarily trade with your country again.2 As you have prevented trade, we suppose you are in breach of your own national law. The port is closed to the English and we ought not to correspond with you but as you have sent in a suitably submissive petition and begged for favours, we provide you with this perspicacious explanation.

Vol 13 No 1 – 7th January 1840

The Americans are making new commercial arrangements following their assumption of the leading role in China-trade:

  • Russell & Co at Canton announce on 31st December 1839 that John C Green and Joseph Coolidge resigned in June 1839 and Abiel A Low resigned today. Warren Delano Jr is admitted a partner.
  • Russell Sturgis & Co of Canton is dissolved and the proprietor Warren Delano Jr has associated himself with Russell & Co to close the business.
  • Joseph Coolidge and Augustine Heard have today established Augustine Heard & Co. Sgd Canton, 1st January.

Vol 13 No 1 – 7th January 1840

Editorial – We could not surrender the murderer of Lam Wai Hei; we would not sign the bond. Now our trade is ended forever by the Emperor. With hindsight, Elliot should have left when his authority was denied by the Chinese. Had he been in England it would have caused exporters there to withhold shipments until all differences had been settled. We always said Napier would not have lingered here – he would have broken-up his Commission and gone back. The country would have saved hundreds of thousands of Pounds. But Napier died and none of his successors have displayed his dignity. The only point gained since then was Imperial recognition of Elliot as a superintendent.

Now all our trade is languishing except opium smuggling and that is the business the Commissioner wishes to stop. This trade on the coast is the barrier to our returning to Canton and our ships entering the river. The expulsion of 16 traders freed them from any duty to the Chinese and their trade was pushed outside. It is not just the bond that kept us out but also the capital punishment that the Commissioner indicated last May would be enforced against opium traders. This made it impossible for us to return to Canton with honour. Even if only the legal trade returns, its practitioners will be exposed to risk of detention as a means whereby officials can get at the outside trade in opium.

We must recognise that Chinese administration is imperfect. In January 1839 the Commissioner ordered the searching of private houses in Canton. The people responded by barricading their streets and searching the policemen before they were allowed to search the houses. This was to reduce the planting of opium on innocent householders to solicit bribes.

If the local residents fear the police will cheat them, how much more should we? If an unpopular foreigner was implicated in opium smuggling in this way, the Commissioner would refer to his voluntary bond and execute him. His ship and cargo would be confiscated and the Commissioner would have the scapegoat he wants to ‘warn’ the remainder of the foreigners. We have no need to revert to the type of inequity that spawned the Hong merchant system and the Consoo charges.

Vol 13 No 1 – 7th January 1840

Editor – ‘Ramrod’ has published a letter in Canton Press (copy not reproduced but its contents may be inferred from the Editor’s comments). His system of ‘negative annoyance’ of the Chinese instead of hot war is unworkable. We cannot erect forts on the islands at the mouths of Chinese rivers to force our smuggling trade on China. That would be a buccaneering system.

Ramrod’s system would cause misery to the Chinese people:

  • First, the way he envisages it, we would have to pay both England and the Emperor thus increasing the costs the traders pay;
  • secondly, the people would be imposed upon by the Chinese officials for paying a tax to us;
  • thirdly, a hot war against the government and its supporters could be quickly concluded and trade would continue throughout.

Ramrod wants to give an assurance to the Chinese that we would not evade their fiscal system. When is this assurance to be given – after the war or ‘negative annoyance’ system has been ended? At that time one party will have won and the other will have lost. The victor may impose its own terms on the loser. We would win and the Chinese would be forced to be practical and submit to our terms.

Opium smuggling is one of our strongest weapons of war. By it alone we are conquering China by draining the Empire of its wealth until the administration is forced to come to terms. England is not concerned with the fiscal policies of other countries and anyway opium is no longer included in the tariff, being a proscribed item.

We want a representative in Peking, agreement we may study Chinese language, and the opening of more ports to our trade.

Vol 13 No 1 – 7th January 1840

Editorial – the Asiatic Journal has been considering the thrust of William Jardine’s reported comments at his retirement party in Canton. We think the Journal has missed the point. Jardine said ‘if the Chinese legalised opium sales, it would reduce consumption and lower prices’.

We bring the opium but Chinese smugglers import it in connivance with bribed officials. Behind this system stands the Company which makes opium for this market. It routinely consults us on the wants and wishes of the Chinese consumer so its product is always acceptable. When a shipment was found unsuitable by the Chinese, the Company paid compensation. And on one occasion it shipped opium direct to its agents in China requesting them to research the market concerning the new form of packing3 and whether it would be approved by Chinese buyers.

This is the meaning behind Jardine’s words.

Vol 13 No 1 – 7th January 1840

Proclamation of Yang, Customs chief in Macau, 4th January 1840:

Our revenue cutters are to prevent smuggling. They are not to charge fees to permit it. Lately we have heard that some officers connect with former officers and allow them to crew government boats and harass the honest merchants. By extorting fees from other cargo boats, they monopolise the local transportation business to themselves.

We dismissed all the crews of our revenue cutters in the fifth moon of this year and have not since employed them so any revenue cutter claiming to represent the Macau Customs is a false revenue cutter – we have none.

This is to advise the merchants of Macau and the crews of cargo junks that, should they meet with a Macau revenue cutter and are required to submit to search or pay a fee in lieu, they should bring the revenue cutter crew to the magistrate for examination.

Vol 13 No 1 – 7th January 1840

Letter to the Editor, Macau 3rd January – we China traders are a divisive bunch. We are prodigious competitors. We only united when Elliot came to Canton and shared in our danger. We gave him our confidence and he got us settled in Macau.

Then his policy and our interests diverged until now there appears to be no connection. Elliot acts without consulting us and we act without consulting him.

We should refrain from public criticism of his policies, which publishes the disunion amongst us. Elliot should see that all his attempts to improve our conditions have in fact only worsened them. He should leave us alone and pursue his own course, and not try again to open negotiations. Sgd ‘QR’

Vol 13 No 2 – 14th January 1840

Notices, 1st January 1840 – Joseph Archer has resigned his partnership. Sgd Wetmore & Co,

Vol 13 No 2 – 14th January 1840

Elliot’s Notice, 7th January:

The Thomas Coutts (Warner) and Royal Saxon (Towns) have entered the river in violation of my notice not to do so.

This has prejudiced British interests in China.

Anyone shipping Chinese exports on either ship to Britain or any British colony, before I declare the port open to British trade, will expose themselves to serious inconvenience.

Vol 13 No 2 – 14th January 1840

Capt Smith, HMS Volage, announced on 7th January 1840:

‘My published blockade of the river is annulled.’

Capt Smith, HMS Volage, announced on 8th January 1840:

‘Whereas Capt Gribble has been detained without cause by the Chinese government on 27th December, I, at Elliot’s request, will establish a blockade of the river commencing 15th January.

Vol 13 No 2 – 14th January 1840

Edict of Commissioner Lin, 10th January 1840:

The Emperor has ruled in the matter of the English.

He has banned opium but the English continue to trade it. They fire their guns and league with their warships to force their opium on us. At first we merely chastised them and did not cut-off their trade, but HMS Volage fired its guns and seized Kwai Chung Bay near Hong Kong for British use (the Cheung Sha Wan anchorage where the British warships and merchant fleet are anchored). This shows they have dark designs. Even if they signed the bond they would probably dispute its validity as they are devoted to defiance of the law. It would be improper to permit them to continue their trade with us. The consequent diminishment of our revenue does not concern us. We cherished these foreigners and they did not know how to show gratitude. Everyone knows, both English and Chinese, that our cause is just and the English are unjust but they repudiate all law.

I have now caused their trade to be stopped and their ships sent away. A schedule of English crimes is to be prepared and circulated so there will be no doubt about the cause of their expulsion. You foreigners from other nations continue to be welcome but you should give no assistance to the English or accept their goods for trans-shipment – that is a crime that will attract severe punishment.

On receiving the Emperor’s instructions, we note Elliot has repeatedly opposed the law. We have told the Emperor that British trade was stopped on 6th December. Now we have a new command to prepare a schedule of British offences for circulation. These offences are:

      • Elliot delivered the opium in May 1839 and went to Macau to fix regulations for the end of opium trading. He begged that export cargoes be sent to Macau to resume British trade from there. As this negotiation was proceeding, he broke with the Wei Yuen (representing China in Macau), and prevented all British ships from signing the bond or entering port. The English ships then stayed at Tsim Sha Tsui where sailors went ashore got drunk, rioted and committed murder.
      • Elliot screened the murderer.
      • He turned the Cambridge into a warship and brought HMS Volage and Hyacinth to China. They went to Kowloon Bay and committed violence. Then they went to Chuen Pi and continued to fire their guns in direct opposition to the Chinese government.
      • He protected the Chinese smugglers’ fast crabs and moored them for security in the middle of the English fleet at Hong Kong harbour and later at Cheung Sha Wan. When I sent cruisers to inspect, they were met with gunfire.4

These English clearly live outside the law. Even if they were to belatedly repent, to sign the bond and request for trade, we could not recommend the Emperor to act in their favour. The English have brought this upon themselves. Their case is quite distinct from other foreign nations. You non-English foreigners are welcome to trade but you should never listen to the insidious English or convey their goods. If you do, the moment you are discovered, your crime will attract severe punishment and we will ask the Emperor to end your trade as well.

Vol 13 No 2 – 14th January 1840

Editorial – Elliot’s threat against shippers of export cargo on Thomas Coutts (Warner) and Royal Saxon (Towns) is shocking, particularly as the Thomas Coutts must have been nearly fully laden when it was published. Every proceeding of Elliot’s since 27th March has been confused. He has become the Superintendent of a non-existent British trade. The following old notice is a good example of his work:

Notice – I have asked the British and Indian governments to forbid the importation of tea and other Chinese produce in British ships that have broken my proscription on entering the Canton river. This measure is in the general British interest, etc.

Signed at Macau, 29th July 1839.

Vol 13 No 2 – 14th January 1840

Notes of Captain Greig and his officers on an interview with Commissioner Lin on their return to Canton with the other survivors of the wreck of the Sunda:

One of the Linguists is a young man who accompanied the late Mr Elphinstone to England and lived with him there for eight years. He speaks English very well. He would have been a far better choice for the Commissioner than the official interpreter Ah Tung who stammers too much.

The Commissioner spoke to us at considerable length about opium. He finally gave us a copy of Rev Thelwell’s book on ‘The Iniquities of the Opium Trade’ and requested us to read it. Several pages of the book had been translated into Chinese and pasted in. He also had statistics on opium imports from India.

He then turned to the murder of Lam Wai Hei and was clearly dissatisfied that the murderer had not been surrendered. He said Elliot had acted properly at Canton but not at Macau. He had heard Elliot was in poor health and he compared his own robust condition. He gave us a letter for Her Majesty, enquiring as he did so whether it was proper. We found a few mistakes in the translation and he had us correct them in the adjoining room. The letter was about opium and contained the Commissioner’s hope that the Queen would put a stop to the trade. Some parts were unintelligible. While we corrected the letter, my crew stuffed themselves on roast pork (on our departure we were given four roast piglets). When we finished transcribing the letter we returned to find the Commissioner and other officials had taken off their insignia and were seated around a circular table talking with one of my cabin boys. He had earlier attracted the attention of some officials during the overland journey. They asked him his name and age and whether his parents were alive. They asked if he liked the life at sea and had him read some English.

The Commissioner asked me the names of the places from which we brought opium and I wrote them down for him. On my mentioning Turkey, he asked if it belonged to America. He was fascinated by my Chief Officer and had his secretary lead him around so he could view him from all angles.

Vol 13 No 2 – 14th January 1840

The translation of Commissioner Lin’s second letter to H M Queen Victoria:

I have looked through the papers concerning your previous embassies to China. I find your predecessor wrote ‘all the people of England coming to China for trade are grateful to the Emperor for his perfect justice and kindest treatment’ and other similar sentences. We were delighted to know you understood propriety and we bestowed on your people our redoubled urbanity and kindness. As a result your country has derived an immense advantage from its trade with China.

But amongst your traders, some are good and some are bad. The bad traders have smuggled opium to seduce our people. These people are concerned only for their own advantage and care nothing if they cause injury to others. This is repugnant to Heaven and all mankind looks on their activities with abhorrence. The Emperor is indignant and has despatched me to Canton to suppress the opium trade. All Chinese (smokers and sellers) who are involved are liable to capital punishment.

As a result, your traders bring opium and our people are punished for it. If we applied the same standards to your people that we apply to our own, they would be annihilated.

The English traders at first repented, surrendered their opium which we destroyed, and bonded themselves not to bring any more. The Emperor then graciously remitted their former offences. But there are those amongst them who have again resumed their smuggling and violated our law. These are difficult to forgive. They are doomed by the terms of the New Trade Regulations. Now it is our law that foreigners who bring opium will also be executed.

Your people come here and compete with each other for profit. They are welcome to a part of the wealth of our land although the wealth they take away should really remain with our own people. Why do they return our kindness with their destructive Drug? The products you buy from us are beneficial to life. The products of your own country, the woollens and manufactures, are redundant here. We have no need of your trade. It is easy for us to eschew feelings of kindness and close our market to you. Suppose foreigners came to your country for trade, you would require they abide by your law. If they brought opium for your people – would you permit it? You ought to prevent poppy cultivation in India and sow the five grains instead. If you act morally, Heaven will support you.

Your representative here said on 9th April 1839 that our penalties for opium offences are too severe. He asked for five months delay in order to have the Presidencies in India comply with the new law and ten months to get ratification of the new arrangements from England.

We petitioned the Emperor and he allowed that any foreigner who brought opium during the following 18 months, upon surrendering it on arrival, would go unpunished. After that period the law will be rigorously enforced. This adjustment is to perfect our justice. The grace period ends on 18th January 1840. You ought to punish those traders who cause trouble so the remainder can enjoy their profitable business.

Editor – Viceroy Loo claimed he was not allowed to correspond with Napier but Commissioner Lin has sent off this second letter to Queen Victoria.

Vol 13 No 3 – 21st January 1840

The Weekly Chronicle (a London news-sheet) of 4th August editorialises on the opium trade in China:

“Great interests have grown under a bad system. They should not supersede the higher interests of justice and right. We have ended the slave trade and we should end the opium trade too. We should certainly never support it by force.”

Editor – this writer knows nothing. Everyone has an opinion on opium these days, ever since Thelwell published his.

Vol 13 No 3 – 21st January 1840

Calcutta Courier, 4th September – Mr Bruce’s reports on the development of tea-farming in Assam are valuable information on this very important branch of trade. He reports the prevalence of opium smoking amongst the Assam natives. These people used to be warlike and powerful. They live in a fertile and well-cultivated country. They enjoy the blessings of civilisation and good government. And now they have been debased by opium.

If this is what has happened in China we should not be surprised at the Emperor’s determination to end the trade. Bruce opines that:

“opium keeps the population down – the women now have fewer children than elsewhere in India and their lives are shorter. Very few old people can be seen. The Assamese opium smoker will do anything for his pipe – he steals, he sells his property, his children, his wife; he will even commit murder for it. It would be an incomparable blessing if our enlightened government would stop the business with a single dash of the pen.”

We all agree with him. It is an imperative duty of our government to end opium cultivation in the eastern provinces. Making the populace more healthy, increasing their numbers and thus their productive ability will soon offset the temporary loss of revenue from opium farming. We ask the Indian government to attend to this. This opium trade is no less horrible than the slave trade. It is denounced by all men of good conscience and should be spontaneously abandoned by government. The voice of England will compel the British government to intervene for its speedy suppression.

Editor – The Calcutta Courier is the Bengal government’s organ. It used to wholly support opium trade. These new views will carry little weight with the government. Why should the opium monopoly be abandoned. Is it because of Chinese policy. Is England to weaken Bengal in order that China be enriched? China must descend from her imaginary superiority before she can enter the community of nations. Until China enters our civilisation and acts like us, she is our enemy.

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

Legal Opinion on Elliot’s Cessation of British Trade in China, prepared by the Advocate-General, Madras Presidency, 11th July.


I am required to opine on the conduct of British subjects in China and how far Elliot was justified in stopping their trade. The stoppage is represented as causing vast investment losses on money and goods intended for China. I am to consider this independently of the losses accruing to the merchants in respect of their other trade.


Commerce involves the interests of two countries. I am to consider the rights of an individual from one country (Elliot), who is unaccredited to the other, to affect the public interests of that other country. The primary authority to stop trade rests with the governments of each country. The exercise of this authority with justice is determined by the rules which each country recognises as the Law of Nations.

It would be a breach of this Law by the English to delegate this authority to an individual who was not accredited to the Court of the other country. It would be reasonable for each country to assume that the representative of the other properly presents the views of his government. Any legal instrument purporting to appoint a subject to the territory of another with powers inter alia of stopping trade, but who remains unaccredited, would breach the Law of Nations.

The more immediate question I must deal with was the relationship between Elliot and the other Britons in China. Was Elliot’s stoppage of his nationals’ trade legal? This depends on the municipal laws under which the community lives and to Elliot’s legal liability to redress injuries that result from trade stoppages. Both Elliot and the Chinese may stop trade for infraction of the rules of the port.

Present opinion holds that a government has no power to prevent its nationals trading with other countries. Such trade could be interdicted only by an Act of Parliament. Elliot was appointed by an Order-in-Council issued under an Act of Parliament. His delegated power was to ‘protect and promote the trade’. He has no express power to abrogate the trade altogether. The directions and regulations for the trade are required to be issued by the Queen-in-Council and not by Elliot. It is clear the British government did not delegate to Elliot any authority to make British policy towards China.

Independently of the Law of Nations, it is clearly unreasonable to have Elliot arbitrate the mutual interests of Britain and China, to injure those interests, to interrupt the friendly relations between the countries or to commence hostilities. He was in my opinion fully authorised to confiscate the opium from British subjects and he could pledge the British revenue in restitution or leave his nationals uncompensated at his own choice.

It remains to be ascertained how the Privy Council assumed the legal powers to delegate authority to Elliot. If the Privy Council could not do it, Elliot had no legal powers. I do not say it would have been reasonable to resist Elliot’s apparent authority but there should be redress to British nationals if they were forced to abandon a profitable trade that did not contravene Chinese or English municipal law. I would withhold compensation from a party that obeyed the injunctions of an unauthorised representative if those injunctions were not actually enforced.

Sgd George Norton, 12th July 1839

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

The Madras Advocate-General’s Further Instructions & Advice:

Instructions: Suppose a merchant charters a ship in London for Madras, the Straits and Whampoa and agrees to pay freight in China 60 days after arrival. If trade in China has been stopped, either by Elliot or Lin, then the ship cannot proceed to Whampoa. Can the master proceed to another port and discharge? The B/L requires he deliver the cargo at Whampoa, acts of God or the King’s enemies excepted. Can he deliver the cargo at Macau and claim his freight? Please advise both the captain and charterer of the law.

Opinion: Any positive prohibition by Elliot to the Queen’s subjects to trade with the Chinese in the way their law required, would be illegal and not entitled to obedience. If Elliot or Lin prevent the voyage being completed, no freight is payable unless there is some express clause in the charter-party allowing pro-rata or periodic freight payments. A temporary suspension of trade is insufficient – the master would in such circumstances be bound to wait, even if the stoppage appeared absolute, until all reasonable hope of payment had evaporated but he would have no claim for demurrage or expenses. Sgd George Norton

Editorial – So far as we can understand Judge Advocate General Norton’s opinion, the claims we have on the British government for compensation for surrendered opium are maintainable. Elliot’s notices of 19th and 22nd May 1839 would not have stopped British trade unless the merchants supported him. He ‘notified’ and ‘enjoined’ us, he did not order us. We might have ignored him but we followed his lead. It seems it may be legally inferred from this that both we merchants and Elliot abandoned the opium trade.

This does not apply to those 16 expelled merchants whose banishment for ‘crimes committed’ released them from keeping any agreement with China.

But Norton must be wrong in talking of international law. It is unknown in China. In fact our problems are caused by the British government and the British people, not by Elliot and the resident merchants.

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

Notice – Shareholders of the Canton Insurance Office (it is a mutual) will receive 15% provisional dividend on the amount of premiums they paid to the Office in 1837. Apply Jardine Matheson & Co.

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

On 26th December 1839 the American Hon. Consul Snow petitioned:

“You require me to check American ships to see if the cargo is American or English and report to the Keunmin foo. If I have to go to Macau to check manifests, it will detain me for ten days per visit. I prefer you ask the individual captains to give the bond on arrival and come up to Whampoa where I can more conveniently check them and give you a declaration.

“Our ships visit all over the world to buy goods. You want to know if they bring prohibited items. We only check for this, not where the goods come from. The goods we make in America are little sold in China. Most of the goods we bring to China come from third countries. You say we may not go to Singapore, Malacca or Manila to load cargo. This will completely end important sources of our profit. Please recall we come a long way, at great risk, to bring goods here. You should allow us to bring any cargo that is not prohibited.”

Commissioner Lin replies, 29th December 1839:

“Snow offers to search his ships at Whampoa to see if they bring trans-shipment goods from the English. His certificate must be given by the captain to the Hong merchants so they have confidence to secure the ship. If it is subsequently discovered that the Americans are bringing English goods, then ship and cargo will be confiscated and the captain will be in trouble. The shipping documents will evidence where the goods were loaded, from whom they were bought, etc. Snow may attach the original invoices to his certificate.”

Editorial – this is appalling. Snow begs Lin to be allowed to bring non-American goods. How can he place American shipping under the direction of Chinese officials like this? The Chinese did not ask for such control – it arises only in the Consul’s own mind but he allows them the right without deprecating its consequences. It is not a Consul’s job to search his nationals’ ships or work for the Chinese Customs.

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

Elliot to the Macau Governor da Silveira Pinto, cc W Scott, Secretary of the British Chamber of Commerce, 1st January 1840:

I must allow my ships to offload and depart. Please permit the storage of British goods in Macau warehouses. We will pay the import duty. This is not a request to open trade with China via Macau. We just want to store our goods locally and allow our ships to depart.

Governor’s reply:

I have taken the advice of the Leal Senado and they advise it would be illegal for me to allow you to deposit your goods here. You know the engagements we have made with the Chinese. We have accepted a first duty to maintain Macau for the Emperor and not expose it to risks or injury. I cannot expose Macau to new risks.

Editor – The official Government newspaper ‘Portuguese na China’ is opposed to any friendly accommodation with the English.

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

The East India and China Association in London passed the following resolutions in September 1839:

  • The interruption of our substantial business at Canton is a matter for concern.
  • Previous stoppages of trade were not accompanied by violence. This stoppage was and has rendered the lives and property of Britons in China insecure.
  • Ministers will respond to the insult to Elliot but we must ask the government for instant measures to protect our traders and preserve our property, both there and on its way there. We want the China trade placed on a secure and permanent basis.
  • Crawfurd, Gregson, Bates, Gledstone, Larpent, Malcolmson, Palmer, J Abel Smith MP for Chichester and Weeding (members of the Association), are to form a committee to prepare a petition to H M Government requesting performance of the above resolutions, such petition to be first circulated to all the houses involved in China trade for their signature.
  • The committee will urge early and vigorous measures on Palmerston. It will co-ordinate with Liverpool and the other British ports.

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

Petition of British merchants in China trade, on behalf of themselves and their correspondents at Canton, to Palmerston, 26th September 1839:

We are alarmed at recent proceedings in Canton. In all previous stoppages of trade there has been no violence. This time there was violence to the extent that Elliot adjudged it unsafe to continue living in Canton. From the latest accounts (up to May 1839), Elliot has withdrawn from Canton and, in obedience to his request, the British community has followed him.

Our China trade is enormous. All Britain’s commerce and industry is involved. The revenue of our Empire depends on it. We will not discuss opium, which the deputation from Canton will discuss with you. But as the trade in China is regulated by your representative, we must know what you are going to do to protect the property left in Canton and Macau and that property presently afloat at Hong Kong.

We urge an early decision as delay will allow the trade to slip into other nations’ hands. We have appointed a committee of merchants in the China trade (as above) and wish you would communicate with it.

Sgd ‘The Merchants of London’.

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

London news:

  • Letters from London say despatches have been sent to India instructing Calcutta to take no action about China that might jeopardise this year’s tea supplies to England.
  • The subject of compensation for the opium we gave to Elliot has been considered by barristers. Wilde and Follett say the merchants had to obey Elliot and his orders are binding on the government that employed him. Two unidentified judges informally agreed.
  • The India Company’s Court of Directors is delighted with our difficulties. They attribute the dispute solely to the free trade and not to their own extended production of opium in Bengal.

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

Capt Gribble was returned to HMS Volage on 17th January and Capt Smith has raised the blockade.

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

The Bristol Chamber of Commerce is involved in China trade. Its members buy Bills on Calcutta from Leadenhall Street. These are sent to Bengal to buy opium at the auctions which is shipped to China. The sale proceeds in China are used to buy tea which is sent back to Bristol.5

With this in mind we extract some parts of a recent memorial the Bristol Chamber sent to ministers as reproduced in the Commercial Gazette, 16th October 1839:

We have imported 16 shiploads of tea since the trade was opened in 1834. They totalled about 12,000 tons and we paid £1 million in British duties.

We are not involved in the opium trade.

The smugglers involved in that trade continually jeopardise our tea trade by infuriating the Chinese government. Its not only the trade along the coast but the entry of schooners and boats into Canton River to sell opium this last three years. The owners and crews of these vessels are anarchists. They defy all law and authority and have caused violence.

You sanction opium smuggling by renewing the grant of the Company to govern India. The trade has been more or less openly tolerated by the Chinese in return for pay-offs but recently they commenced rigorous enforcement of their law and now our trade has been stopped in consequence.

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

Manchester Guardian, 18th October 1839:

Many readers will know that Manchester has petitioned Palmerston, requesting he protect British trade in China and establish a proper basis to our future trade.

The deputation carrying the memorial (MacVicar, Garnett and Clitheroe) had an interview last Monday. Pam spoke of ‘deep importance’ and ‘earnest attention’ so we told him we had to know early what he would do so we could plan. We had the feeling he would adopt vigorous measures. This presupposes a protracted interruption of trade.

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

The American Consul Snow has offered to sell the Chesapeake, exCambridge (now renamed Helen Douglas) to the Hong merchants. His vice-Consul Delano has agreed to supply her with guns. Commissioner Lin is also negotiating to buy the Alabama and some other American ships.

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

Edict of Commissioner Lin:

Every foreign ship coming to Whampoa has its name, its nationality and port of registry displayed so all may know.

The Danish ship Dansche Koenge has arrived with English nationality claimed on its stern board. The master of Dansche Koenge reported he had bought his ship from the country merchant Mat Wan (James Matheson, the honorary Danish Consul). If there was a real sale and purchase, why were the details of nationality etc., not painted on the ship? Instead the British name remains on her stern and she is overtly British.

The Norden has arrived with nothing written on her hull at all. The master of Norden said he had come from Manila to China but on enquiry I find he has been all along anchored in the English smuggling fleet at Cheung Sha Wan and has simply changed his flag and name, apparently intending to deceive.

These two ships have both come from the anchorage of English ships. We have previously distinctly warned that English goods are not permitted in this port on penalty of confiscation of ship and cargo. These two ships have borrowed Danish names but remain in English ownership. Their cargo has been discharged and sold. It is no longer appropriate to confiscate it but the ships will be prevented from loading an export cargo and will be detained at Whampoa. In this way we will impress our serious intent upon Matheson and the other English. The security merchants will organise the detention of the two ships at Whampoa pending for the arrival of the Weiyuen to formally confiscate them.

Editorial – The Commissioner wanted to buy these ships but Matheson declined his terms. He then discovered they were carrying trans-shipped English goods and now he says he has confiscated them.

The Norden entered the river on 6th December, the day British trade was perpetually ended, the Dansche Koenge came in on about the same date. The latter ship used a Chinese pilot from Macau.

Lin knew they carried British property but he allowed them to enter the river solely so he could confiscate them.

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

Peking Gazettes:

  • A Taotai of high rank has arrived in Canton. The Commissioner and Viceroy propose to put him in the Hoppo’s house in Macau to manage affairs there. They expect he will stay 1-2 years until a respect for law has been inculcated in the foreigners. About 300 soldiers have been placed under his control.
  • Lin is appointed Viceroy of the Two Kwong.

Editor – We hear Viceroy Tang is sent to the Viceroyalty of Yunnan and Kweichow where the poppy grows in profusion

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

The British ship Mars has been wrecked on Pratas Reef. It was bringing 600 chests of opium from Manila back to China. HMS Hyacinth sailed on 25th January to rescue the crew and take off the cargo.6

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

Editorial on our available pretexts for war:

Elliot’s notice of 23rd March, when he heard we were detained in Canton, was not a declaration of war but its immediate preliminary. Senn van Basel (The Dutch Hon. Consul) agrees with this construction.

Lin’s detention of all foreigners was a hostile act. The soldiers, warships and fire rafts were indications of threat; the Hong merchants were threatened with death.

When Elliot came to Canton on 24th March everyone welcomed him whatever they may say now. We all thought he was the only man to represent us. Lin’s prior detention justified Elliot’s flag hoisting. We did cheer Elliot when he arrived but he cautioned us not to irritate the Chinese then in the square. How Qua returned thanks to Elliot.

After Elliot had read his Proclamation, he said he would act concertedly with the Chinese if they were reasonable. He said it was with this in mind that he interfered with opium smuggling at Whampoa. He said he had been expecting a crisis for some time but the attempt to execute an opium smuggler in the square on 12th December 1838 and the successful execution of another in the square on 26th February 1839 shook the confidence he had hitherto reposed in the Chinese officials. He had then resolved on wholeheartedly supporting the British merchants. He thanked God for the small warship we had outside and offered British protection to all foreigners at Canton. He noted that two American frigates were expected to visit Canton and anticipated their support (here an American observer had murmured ‘that you may surely do’). He then called on the community to consider themselves the nationals of one single country and unite in their opposition to the Chinese.

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

The Hoppo Yu has received a petition from the Dutch Hon. vice-Consul Tiedeman.

“On 9th January Capt Linstedt brought a Dutch ship to Canton for trade. While outside he gave the bond and then came up to Whampoa. The ship carries tin, sandalwood, gold and silver thread, sharks’ fins, blankets, carpets and the like and a new kind of foreign money for trade.

“Captain Linstedt did not know that imported foreign money is taxed at 12% (one Mace per Dollar, assay and weighing fee) before it can be legally tendered.

“When he learned this, he employed the money to buy 800+ bales of cotton outside which he loaded and brought up to Whampoa. Linstedt submits to the bond and requests the Hong merchants to discharge his cargo so he may quickly leave while the winter monsoon still blows.”

Now I, the Hoppo, have received orders from the Commissioner on 18th December 1839 and 13th January 1840 forbidding all foreigners and foreign ships to bring English goods to China. Linstedt has brought 800+ bales of cotton which he trans-shipped from an English ship. The trans-shipment occurred after the Commissioner’s first order banning it……. (the remainder of the Edict is illegibly faint)

Vol 13 No 4 – 28th January 1840

Petition of Captain Towns (Royal Saxon):

“I gave the bond to the keunmin foo and obtained his permission to enter the river but was prevented from doing so by British warships. I had to anchor outside and my cargo became spoiled. The rice has become foul smelling and the crew particularly object to it. Now my ship has entered port, please promptly order the Hong merchants to secure her so I can discharge this noisome rice.”

Commissioner Lin’s reply, 16th January 1840:

“Towns correctly petitioned and was allowed in. I ordered How Qua to arrange for the inspection of his ship. Concurrently, I require the Hong merchants to devise a means whereby they can jointly secure each foreign ship so they are all on the same footing. Towns’ ship should be secured in this way. How Qua is ordered to settle the joint security arrangements with the Hoppo and must then immediately open Towns’ holds.”

Vol 13 No 5 – 4th February 1840

The Colonial Gazette, 14th – 21st August 1839 edition:

In 1795 the consumption of opium in China was 1,000 chests. In 1816 it had risen to 3,210 chests, valued at £1½ millions. Then the influx of free traders commenced (after peace in Europe and the end of the Company’s trade monopoly). At that time India was at peace and the acquisition of new provinces along the Ganges added to the amount of opium being grown in British India. After four years (1820), sales in China had grown to 4,700 chests worth £1¾ millions; in 1836 it was 27,000 chests worth £3.7 millions. The estimate for 1837 is 34,000 chests worth £4 millions.

The cause of increased sales in recent years was the end of the Company monopoly on China trade and the rise of the free trade. The Company used to buy 25 – 30 million pounds of tea annually, now the free trade buys 40 – 45 millions. Instead of 5,000 – 8,000 bales of raw silk we now buy 1½ million pounds (11,000+ bales).

Scholarship on the subject is limited to exaggeration and ignorance. Thelwell’s well distributed book of 178 pages (The Iniquities of the Opium Trade) has become authoritative but Thelwell has never been to India or China nor seen an opium poppy. He says he learned about the opium trade only a few months before he was asked to write his book.

During the last 3 years the price per chest of opium has not dropped under £200 (c. $800). There are charges for smuggling in, profit of the Chinese importer, inland transportation, refining the raw opium and profit of the retailer. The Chinese user cannot be paying less than £300 ($1,200) per chest. It is clearly a luxury and its use is accordingly confined to the few. The officials at Peking say the great majority of smokers are the relatives and dependants of civil servants. Their example has extended to the Chinese merchants and to the inferior ranks of government service, to the army and the literati. The people who cannot afford to smoke are the commoners.

Opium was never mentioned during the last successful British Mission to China (Macartney in 1793) nor in the brief conversations Amherst had in 1816 before his precipitant departure. The amount of land under the poppy in India is about 50,000 acres and 25,000 ryots are probably adequate to farm it. The Chinese do not run amok after consuming it. All the contrary ‘facts’ in Thelwell’s book are wrong.

In 1836 Heun Nae Tse, an ex-Salt Commissioner and most recently provincial judge in Canton, proposed making opium a dutiable commodity. His heterodox view elicited a river of conservative opposition led by Choo Tsun, member of the Board of Rites and thus a custodian of the Confucian culture. Choo’s memorial exposes the revolution that foreign commerce has caused.

Speaking of the populace, Choo says ‘the more foolish are seduced by Catholic missionaries while the more intelligent are intoxicated by opium’ and ‘they prize things they have only heard of while undervaluing those that are before their eyes’ and ‘though they have a thing in their own land, they esteem more highly the version that comes from overseas.’7 Thus the impure foreign silver coin is valued more then the pure native sycee; the abundant native silks and cottons are eschewed for foreign varieties, etc.

One common feature of all the memorials is that gold and silver are the only substantial wealth that a nation has. We subscribed to the same view of economics not so many years ago.8

Heun says ‘formerly the foreigners brought silver to buy our goods and it was a source of advantage to the maritime provinces. Now they bring opium and export our silver’. The shortage of silver from its export has made it 20-30% more valuable relative to copper cash. Heun quotes the example of those merchants who farm the salt monopoly. They sell salt for copper cash (the money of the market-place) but pay the Imperial duty on it in silver at the standard rate of 1,000 cash : 1 Tael of silver.

Every complaint of silver export in the Chinese documents is coupled with opium imports. The reduction of domestic silver stock is about £6-7 millions (say 20 million Taels). To the Chinese mind, once it has been exported it is irretrievably lost. Formerly the trade balance was in China’s favour and we foreigners all took silver to China to complete our purchases. Our trade has increased faster than Chinese trade and we now have a balance in our favour, requiring silver to be taken away from China. Recently it has been about 6 million Taels (£2 million) annually.

It is the Chinese equation of silver reserves with national wealth that is at fault. The memorials name six provinces in which opium is farmed. Choo says it grows everywhere in Fukien, which Province produces several thousand chests. Making some allowance for the other five provinces there must still be a formidable domestic industry in China. We think this domestic production militates against the use of opium being ended by the current proscription.

Editor – English readers may be aware of the Anglican Church wish in 1736 to end gin-drinking in England by the imposition of a swingeing duty. The effect was a massive increase in smuggling from the Netherlands with actually increased the supply of inexpensive gin and led to widespread drunkenness and crime in England.

The court at Peking is acting in the same spirit as the Bishops and Peers of George II. One merely has to amend all the papers by substituting opium for gin.

We will remind the missionaries and moralists that they have plenty to do without opposing every considerable merchant who has been in India in the last 50 years and without discrediting a trade as legitimate as wine or brandy or tobacco.

Vol 13 No 5 – 4th February 1840

The Agra Ukbar, 9th November, 1839:

A caravan of Indian merchants passing through Yarkand has been seized, the merchants imprisoned and their cargo, which was mainly opium, has been seized. This was apparently due to a Chinese order, Yarkand being tributary to China.9

Vol 13 No 5 – 4th February 1840

Departures – the Scaleby Castle left 2nd February for Singapore and Bombay carrying Mrs Elliot, wife of the Trade Commissioner, and her child and servants.

Vol 13 No 5 – 4th February 1840

Editorial – The Taotai who has come to ‘manage affairs’ in Macau is required to expel any English he finds there. 2,000 soldiers are marching from Canton to Macau to assist him.

Vol 13 No 5 – 4th February 1840

Edict of the Hoppo:

On 22nd January I attended on board Ann McKinn and found 14 cases of foreign wine and 47 boxes of foreign silver coins. The Lintin had 4 cases of wine and 10 cases of silver and Valparaiso had 100 cases of foreign wine and 4 boxes of silver.

The Linguists asked why these ships had bought so little cargo and the Captains each said they had first intended to buy rice at Batavia for import to China but, on learning that the rice price in China was low, they decided to simply buy an export cargo at Whampoa and depart.

I have reported this to Commissioner Lin who notes that the foreign ships have always come here for barter trade but these ships have arrived virtually empty. He does not comment on the wines but notes the total silver import of the three ships is a paltry $100,000. He wonders why the foreign ship-owners have sent their ships so far for such limited trade and how much export cargo might be bought with it.

He notes the Valparaiso has no country name printed on her stern and wonders if she has used a false name to enter port. He is disposed to have the Hong merchants drive the Valparaiso away but the ship has come from afar. The Ann McKinn and Lintin will deliver their silver to the Hoppo for examination and he will then transfer it to the Consoo. The Hong merchants are to note that the value of export cargo for these ships may not exceed the value of silver they brought. The Hoppo will examine clearly if these ships are really American ships.” 25th January 1840

Editor – It was not so long ago that all the Americans brought here for trade was dollars. Nevertheless, we do not believe they will tamely give up their own money.

Vol 13 No 5 – 4th February 1840

Editor – An American merchant recently demanded of an English trader at Whampoa ‘What are you doing here, Mister; jeopardising our trade?”

Perhaps we will soon hear they are commanding the confiscated ships against us.

Vol 13 No 5 – 4th February 1840

Edict of Yiu, Taotai of Keen Chow, 1st February 1840:

I have been ordered by the Commissioner to go to Macau and drive out any remaining English. English trade was stopped on 6th December 1839 and thereafter no Englishman may live in Macau but Elliot has brought young Morrison and they live in a foreign house near the Campo Gate.

Now on 23rd January the Tso Tong reports Johnstone, Thom, Gutzlaff, Anderson and Chinnery (the British Commission) have arrived with their foreign women and taken individual houses in Macau for their residences.

This is obstinate opposition to the law. It would be reasonable to send soldiers to seize them but this might dismay the people and jeopardise tranquillity. I therefore inform all Chinese, Portuguese and other residents in Macau that my duty is solely to expel the English and other nationalities have nothing to worry about.

If any of you have been alarmed by the English, tell me, and I will send soldiers to seize them.

Vol 13 No 6 – 11th February 1840

Edict of Hoppo Yu to How Qua and the other security merchants, 31st January:

On 29th December Commissioner Lin told me he had informed the Emperor on 14th December that English trade had been forever stopped because they could not speak straightforwardly and constantly shifted their negotiating position.

On 18th January we received the Emperor’s letter to the Commissioner of 29th December, written in His own hand:

“I have ordered the British ships to be expelled and their trade stopped. I am unconcerned at the loss of revenue.

“Now today Lin has sent me another memorial about English conduct. Their continual illogical shifting of position reveals they only profess to submit to the law whilst in fact opposing it. I am concerned that the other hitherto well-behaved foreigners will be allured by the English into serving them by distributing their illegal opium and buying our teas and silks for British account. We are ending British trade and must ensure it is not covertly continued by nominees.

“Lin will deliberate with his colleagues and devise a plan to ensure the complete end of British trade in China. He is made Viceroy of the Two Kwong and must show no hint of leniency. A few more days of strenuous effort will obtain centuries of peace. The shortfall in the Hoppo’s collections is not a matter of concern for the present.”

This Imperial rescript coming to me the Hoppo, I note the English ships have been driven away but they may try to trade through nominees. This is something for the Hong merchants to deal with.

Vol 13 No 6 – 11th February 1840

Letter to the Editor – I have been excoriated by Elliot for signing the bond. He twice attempted to stop me taking my ship into the river. Then Commissioner Lin said my trade could continue while that of the other English could not. I wished to take advantage of this commercial opportunity.

On 23rd December HMS Volage came to the Cheung Sha Wan anchorage and I went on board. The Superintendent remained in Macau but Captain Smith said he thought Elliot would prevent my trade and mentioned the Volage’s cutter would be returning to Macau in the evening and I could send Elliot a letter by it. I told Smith I would take no action until I had heard from Elliot and I sent him my letter that evening. Next morning Elliot arrived at Cheung Sha Wan in the Louisa and boarded HMS Volage from where he called me aboard.

In the course of a long conversation he warned of the danger of entering the river. At the end I said I would nevertheless continue my trade and he said he would do everything possible to stop me. I said if I cannot trade my ship it was of no use to me and I would surrender it to him. He said ‘I cannot help it’.

Sgd R Towns (Captain, Royal Saxon), 3rd February at Cheung Sha Wan Roads.

Vol 13 No 6 – 11th February 1840

Notice – I (Captain Towns) was compelled by Elliot to discharge all the export cargo I loaded to the Royal Saxon at Whampoa. She can carry 500 tons and will accept new cargo at Cheung Sha Wan commencing 12th February.

She will sail direct for London. For freight apply on board or to the Agent, James P Sturgis. (NB – Elliot has confirmed he has no objection to signing the manifest of all cargo I ship at Cheung Sha Wan.)

Vol 13 No 6 – 11th February 1840

Capt Smith (HMS Volage) to the Portuguese Governor, 4th February:

The edict recently posted on walls around Macau has disturbed British residents (The Keen Chow Taotai’s call for their removal from Macau). My job is to protect them. I am moving a warship into the inner harbour to both protect them and provide them with a sanctuary.

Governor Adriao Accacio da Silveira Pinto’s reply, 4th February:

The legal authority for political decisions in Macau is myself sitting with the Leal Senado. I will call the senate into session to consider your application. But I can tell you that the entry of HMS Hyacinth will be considered a hostile act. Foreign warships have always been forbidden access to the inner harbour. Even Admiral Drury was not allowed in.

I protest against your act (Smith has already sent HMS Hyacinth in before advising the Governor) and its likely consequences. I will report this matter to both the British and Portuguese governments.

Smith’s response, 4th February:

Tell me plainly, will you protect British subjects in Macau or will they continue to exist as you have permitted during the last six months. If you cannot protect them and wish them to leave, I shall leave harbour and advise my countrymen of your position.

Governor’s reply, 4th February:

Macau is unlike other Portuguese possessions. We can only admit foreigners in certain circumstances. The fact that we tolerate a few is no precedent. In previous troubles the English have returned to their ships notwithstanding the protection I was able to offer. On one occasion it was the British Commissioner who ordered them out and on another it was your goodself. I infer you have an exact knowledge of Macau’s unique situation.

If the Chinese withhold our provisions we will perish. There are treaties between Portugal and China. Their terms should be well known to you. No British warship has attempted to enter the port before except for unavoidable repairs. Please order HMS Hyacinth to leave the inner harbour. I will protect your nationals as best I can. If that is not enough they may leave – at least the town will be quieter. Our treaty commitments may not be violated.

What you have done is in breach of our law. You are concerned for the hardships of a handful of Englishmen; I am concerned for the well-being of 5,000 Portuguese. Our trade has been stopped since Elliot came here. Our soldiers are working long hours guarding your people. You should consider others as well as yourselves. I am seeking for permission to publish all that has happened in the last nine months so there can be no doubt about the matter. The Senate and I require a response to this letter.

Smith’s reply, 4th February:

I have ordered HMS Hyacinth to remove from the inner harbour tomorrow morning. I had thought her presence would strengthen your hand. I hope you will treat the Chinese, whose forces are massing on your northern frontier, as stringently as you have treated me. However, I assure you my entire force is at your disposal.

Governor’s reply:

The Chinese force has withdrawn at our request. I look forward to your sloop leaving tomorrow morning as its departure will avert many evils.

Governor’s Protest, 4th February 1840:

Capt Smith should know that only Portuguese and Spanish ships can enter the inner harbour. The London and Lisbon governments would never have approved his act. This government will in all circumstances be politically neutral. Smith and Elliot may have compromised our relationship with China; our trade has been suspended, our provisions withheld and we hold you responsible for all foreseeable effects. A copy of this protest is to be served on Capts Smith and Elliot.

Governor’s Notice to the people of Macau, 4th February 1840:

HMS Hyacinth has entered the inner harbour without the consent of the Governor-in-Council. Everyone should remain calm while we take the necessary measures.

(Both Protest and Notice were signed by the Governor and Leal Senado members.)

Vol 13 No 6 – 11th February 1840

Elliot left Macau yesterday (10th February) in the Louisa and came to Cheung Sha Wan.

Vol 13 No 6 – 11th February 1840

We have received a letter from Canton dated 8th February saying Lin has been admonished in an Edict of the Emperor – “Lin is to remain at Canton to settle all the pending difficulties in order that the blame, if any, falls on the right shoulders.”

Vol 13 No 6 – 11th February 1840

The Captain of Dansche Koenge has petitioned Commissioner Lin that his enemy in Canton has maliciously caused the Commissioner to accuse him by making false representations to How Qua. He does not identify the enemy.

Vol 13 No 6 – 11th February 1840

Chinese officials at Whampoa take their right of search seriously. They pull alongside the American ships at any time of the day or night and wander everywhere without asking leave.

Vol 13 No 6 – 11th February 1840

The Chinese are spreading a rumour that Sir George Staunton is coming to replace Elliot. It is so widely believed, a letter has been sent to Sir George from Macau by one of the Hong merchants in which the Chinese merchants request an interview with him immediately he arrives.

Vol 13 No 6 – 11th February 1840

It is also rumoured amongst the Cantonese that How Qua has paid the Commissioner $300,000 to overlook his close connections with foreigners.

Vol 13 No 6 – 11th February 1840

The Chinese troops and war-junks returned to the inner harbour of Macau after the Lunar New Year holidays. Guns have been mounted on the barrier north of the City overlooking the inner harbour.

Vol 13 No 6 – 11th February 1840

The January issue of the Chinese Repository contains some rare errors:

  • The highest price paid (for a single chest of opium) during the recent troubles was actually $1,080 and the average price over the last six months has been $700 – 800.
  • The deliberate murder of a Chinese official off Fukien was not the intention of ‘foreign’ smugglers. These errors originate from a seaman who was discharged from one of the coasting schooners for bad conduct. We have made particular enquiries of a party close to the captain of the involved schooner.
    We learned a Chinese broker on that opium schooner pointed-out a boat to the captain and professed it was a pirate. The captain later agreed the boat was acting suspiciously and boarded her. On doing so a French crewman from the schooner was stabbed through the foot. The Frenchman shot the man who stabbed him. In further revenge for the injury to his crewman, the schooner captain then seized the Chinese boat and burned it. He cut-off the queues of each crew member and landed them on the nearby coast.
    The seaman who told the story of foreign murderers in the Chinese Repository was later taken on another coasting schooner but again misbehaved himself and was again discharged after punishment.
    That is the fact behind the rumour.

Vol 13 No 6 – 11th February 1840

We have a report on the dispute Blain and Bewley v J N Daniell that is now being heard in London by a special jury. Blain and Bewley of M/s Blain & Son are tea dealers while Daniell is a partner in Daniell & Co of London and Canton. The Plaintiffs claim damages of the Defendant for non-performance of an order they placed with him.

After the tea trade had been opened to the free trade, the Plaintiffs offered to place considerable business with Daniell. In 1834 / 35 they had their first business and it was not entirely satisfactory. This action relates to the second piece of business. At that time an immense quantity of tea had been imported to England, much of which was inferior and unmarketable. Only good tea could then be sold.

In late 1835 and early 1836 the Plaintiffs sent orders to the Defendant for teas in the coming season and the Defendant wrote back accepting the orders. The Defence however states that they did not receive the orders or, if they did, they did not accept them, or, if they did accept them, they had fulfilled them faithfully.

The disputed order is for 100,000 lbs of black pekoe-flavoured congou at 19-20 Taels per picul; 25,000 lbs twankey and 15,000 lbs of Hyson in two qualities between 50 – 60 Taels per picul. The plaintiffs alluded to the unsaleability of inferior tea in their instructions and to their rejection of a parcel previously sent to them by Daniell & Co. They insisted on only fine teas. If no fine teas were procurable, the Defendants were to convert the funds into Bills on London and return them. The Plaintiffs’ written instructions particularly noted that the continuance of business between the parties required Daniell & Co to precisely execute their orders.

The Defendants replied they had carefully studied the order and offered their best attention in carrying it out. On shipping the teas per Ingleborough the Defendants sent a letter accompanying the goods, confidently expressing their belief in the quality of the teas. On arrival of the ship the teas were discharged and a broker inspected them. He immediately reported unfavourably. Samples were sent to expert tea tasters who opined only the Hyson could be graded as ‘middling’ and the other two teas were unacceptable.

The Plaintiffs complained to the Defendants who alleged the complaints derived from the state of the London market and not the state of the teas.10 The Plaintiffs denied this and proposed to have three competent and independent persons to sample the teas. The Defendant refused and the action commenced.

The Defendant claimed he acted as agent and had exercised due care, etc. He is a major dealer in tea and, to maintain his good reputation, would never ship inferior tea. He opined the matter of quality related to what was available each year and not to a fixed standard. The ex-Company tea inspector Archer was called. He remembered the 1836 / 37 teas were generally of inferior quality.

Mr Layton was also called. He spent two years with the Company and over four years with the free trade as a tea inspector. Before that he worked ten years for his father, the well-known London tea broker. He said the season commenced in September and tea merchants continued to arrive at Canton until the following April. Contracts were usually made in April for delivery in the following season from September – April. The Hong merchants were required to send a small deposit with each order but sale prices were not fixed until the tea was delivered at Canton. As a general rule, the earlier one made one’s contracts, the better the qualities of tea received. When he (Layton) was in Canton there were five Hong merchants who monopolised the tea trade.

He was retained by the Defendants to inspect the teas that were the subject of the instant dispute. He recalled the tea qualities in 1836 / 37 were rather inferior but Daniell’s shipment per Ingleborough was comparatively good on the whole. He remembered opining it was exceedingly well chosen.

Verdict for the Plaintiffs in £5,000.

Vol 13 No 7 – 18th February 1840

Notice – Henry R Harker has become a partner in W & T Gemmell & Co w.e.f. 1st January 1840.

Vol 13 No 7 – 18th February 1840

Canton news:

  • An Imperial edict was received 12th February by Commissioner Lin permitting the stoppage of English trade if he deemed it appropriate to do so.
  • Lin has returned his plenipotentiary seals to the Emperor by hand of the late Viceroy Tang, who has gone to Peking but is rumoured likely to return here again as Viceroy.

Editor – Why should the Emperor authorise Lin to stop trade when his actions are said to be under scrutiny?

  • The Hong merchants agreed to pay James Matheson $45,000 for the Norden, the Danish ship confiscated recently for incorrect registration details, but the government considered the price too high. It seems possible that the supposed plan for the Chinese to use armed foreign ships is in abeyance.

Vol 13 No 7 – 18th February 1840

The Ariel, carrying Elliot’s despatches reached London on 21st September 1839. The home government’s responses will be returned on the Ariel. Patrick Robertson, representing the home government, has left London to join the Ariel at Aden and will come on to China in her.11

Vol 13 No 7 – 18th February 1840

The quarterly London tea auctions occurred 9th – 10th October and prices were up about 2d per lb. 2.95 million lbs were offered and 2.3 million lbs sold.

Vol 13 No 7 – 18th February 1840

Private letters received in Macau say Sir George Staunton has been approached by the Foreign Office with an offer of the post of Commissioner to China.

Vol 13 No 7 – 18th February 1840

Larpent, Crawfurd and John Abel Smith of the East India and China Association met with Palmerston on 10th October 1839 to discuss the situation in China.

They were told HMS Volage had been sent from India to Macau but Admiral Maitland of the East India station would not sail East in HMS Wellesley until he had precise instructions from London.

Palmerston merely said for the interim British merchants in China should prudently care for themselves and their property.

Vol 13 No 7 – 18th February 1840

Editorial – There is a letter from an American calling himself Carolus Rex (Charles W King) in the January issue of the Chinese Repository. It makes 23 points on our present situation. We will correct them seriatim:

1/ He says ‘Chinese policy is nullified by connivance and corruption of the provincial officials with foreigners’. This is untrue. How did we foreigners connive; how did we corrupt?

2/ We do not seek for protection of the trade. We can protect ourselves.

3/ The legalisation discussions in Peking in 1836 only evidence Chinese government uncertainty.

4/ We disbelieve all Chinese Edicts because the officials are corrupt.

5/ The Commissioner’s armed theft of our property is an offence. Which European country issues writs against smugglers and uses arms to enforce them?

6/ Elliot does not represent the Company or British India. He expressly disowned the opium trade in his notice of December 1838.

7/ The attempted, and subsequent successful, executions in the square were done so stealthily, they were obviously improper.

8/ & 9/ Chinese jurisdiction extends only as far as Chinese enforcement. The outer waters are thus international waters but International Law is not recognised in China. Lin imprisoned us and extorted our property under threat of death to the Hong merchants. Elliot’s duty was to resist this aggression and protect British lives and property, including opium. This state of affairs had changed in December 1839 when Elliot offered the Chinese to drive the opium trade out of the river.

10/ Lin threatened Dent’s life. Elliot had to protect him. Lin was forced to pause. He could not take a British subject from the arms of his national representative in his own consulate.

11/ The Company’s Select Committee could not end the opium trade without orders from Leadenhall Street (the company’s main London office). Anyway the Select members were all participants in the trade with the ’leading opium firm’ and shared in its cotton profits while the firm’s partners shared in its opium profits.12 Nor would the Select have deported Dent as a country trader.

15/ & 16/ The first bond given was by a partner in Carolus Rex’s firm. Carolus Rex himself in the letter to Lin of 25th March 1839 submitted to the bond’s terms. Lin clearly wrote on 8th May ‘you foreigners do not have to come here but if you do, and you bring opium, in every case you will be judicially executed and your property confiscated. Do not say you were not warned’.

22/ The departure from Canton was recommended by Elliot for our safety. It was not ordered. The Select Committee never had influence with the Chinese except by stopping trade. They did it in 1821.

23/ And finally, how can Carolus Rex say the language and conduct of the British during their detention was openly hostile?

Carolus Rex is an inconsistent dissembler. He was the first foreigner to co-operate with Chinese policy and pledge not to import opium or export silver sycee; The Morrison (Benson) was consigned to his firm Olyphant & Co and Capt Benson was the first ship captain to sign the bond. Carolus Rex says the American community will be thought dishonourable if they do not follow his example. His actions have strengthened the Commissioner’s hand and weakened our own.

Contrarily, he has been involved in the trans-shipment business at Hong Kong but now he has made his fortune from it, he decries it to others. He even trans-shipped goods on Sundays which he justifies on grounds of necessity. This profane breach of the 4th commandment (to keep the sabbath holy) had immediate consequences – his ship Albion stowed trans-shipped cargo poorly and carried fewer bales than would normally be the case.13 He accordingly lost part of his freight income. How can anyone listen to him?

He commends the actions that western governments should take, even in respect of compensation for our surrendered property. On this subject, legal authority in England supports us but even on practical grounds the British government must ratify the actions of its representative or lose international respect. Carolus Rex says Britain has two prior obligations to China, before considering restitution, but without saying what they are. He just says peaceful means should be attempted to resolve our dispute before going to war. Even the reverend Editor of the Chinese Repository knows that is wrong – in his article preceding Carolus Rex’s letter, he notes five things that the Chinese will not concede:

  • communications on grounds of equality.
  • compensation for our loss of opium and loss of trade
  • apologies for the detention of foreign representatives and traders.
  • non-capital punishment for foreigners committing murder in China.
  • import of opium or export of silver.

We will overlook the first three points. On the fourth China has foregone capital punishment before – Edward Sheen’s case and the HMS Topaze affair at Lintin are examples. On the fifth we have to teach China how we conduct foreign trade.

But both the Chinese Repository Editor and Carolus Rex are wrong. The Editor says the British government should try to suppress the opium trade; Carolus Rex says ‘the Drug must be swept from the path of Great Britain forever.’ We disagree with them because there is no good reason to sacrifice our valuable trade. The opposition to opium is an emotional frolic of the Chinese. Why should it influence the commercial policy of Britain?

Should we cease making machinery because it reduces employment? Our mechanisation of Indian production has caused greater evils in the resultant unemployment than the opium trade has to China. Every development in our technology has good and bad effects, but if the balance is to the good, we should still do it. Posterity will thank us.

We now turn to Tsang Wang Yen’s memorial requiring our annihilation (see 3rd March 1840 edition for details). This document should remove any consideration of peaceful negotiations from the policy of the British government. Tsang has declared war. All the problems here are caused by the Chinese, not us.

We just do what we have always done, while they introduce these new initiatives and destabilise the market. Those people supporting the new Chinese initiatives need only wait a year or so until pirates are swarming through the rivers and coasts before they will recognise their error. Anyone defending Chinese policies is advocating the darkest crimes. If this government has its way it will be separated forever from the civilised world.

Vol 13 No 7 – 18th February 1840

Letters to the Editor:

  • Elliot must see that British imports are being traded through American houses and transmuted into teas and silks which are now on their way home to London. This relieves the suffering commercial firms and lessens the ‘present evil’. This plan first won his disapproval but has turned out to be beneficial. Elliot should see it as a national good. Sgd Oliver Cromwell, 10th February
  • Carolus Rex’s letter to the Chinese Repository in January refers. In Opinion No 10 he condemns Elliot for taking Dent into his consulate because Dent was accused of crime under Chinese law and the law should not be obstructed. Dent’s crime was ascribed to us all, including Carolus Rex. Dent was never personally accused or charged with an offence. He was ‘invited to the city gate to hear an Edict being read’ as the Hong merchants put it (with the exception of the late Mow Qua who even in those fearful circumstances was too honourable to mislead and so phrased his speech that every hearer knew a trap was being laid).
    Readers will think Carolus Rex is an upright man. He was assiduously engaged in trans-shipping British cargo at Hong Kong, a crime according to Lin. He continued working on Sundays, a day our God commands us to keep holy.
    The trans-shipment trade in Hong Kong harbour that commenced soon after the meeting of British merchants at Macau in June 1839 caused an estrangement between Elliot and the merchants. These trans-shipments enabled the Americans to sell their Bills for Indian cotton. Nearly all Carolus Rex’s business derived from his trade with a single English firm. As trans-shipments continued, first in Hong Kong harbour and later at Cheung Sha Wan, the British found American freight rates became too high. When notice of Smith’s first blockade was published an American in one instance in early September asked $9 on a bale of cotton up the river. Freights down the river were then $10 – 15 per ton and silk $10 – 12 per picul. Carolus Rex has tried to mislead on this point. The American attitude was opportunistic and dissatisfying. At the same time they were enjoying the protection of the Chinese officials who connived at the trans-shipment trade. The Americans willingly allowed this discrimination against Britons to continue for their profit.

Vol 13 No 7 – 18th February 1840

The American C W King, late of China, has gone to London and published a tract on his experiences here. We (Editor Slade) really do not want to publish anything from him but now he has published himself, we have to review it:

The first 22 pages portray his close relationship with Elliot who frequently came to King’s house to discuss difficult moral questions like opium.

On page 25 he states that his servant told him the destruction of the opium was welcomed by the Chinese. This is probably the wily servant telling his master what he wants to hear. Actually the seizure and destruction of the opium terrified the Chinese who were concerned for the consequences.

We also inform King, in respect of another aspect of his misinformation, that Chinese women are large consumers of the opium we bring.

We think any pledge of abstention from opium trading given whilst imprisoned under threat of death by starvation is not binding. On the other hand, a pledge given in return for promised advantages is a contract and, if the advantages are then withheld, the contract is breached and the pledger is entitled to abrogate his pledge. This is exactly our situation.

On page 30 King abuses his Consul and the American Constitution. That is his business.

He accuses Elliot of inconsistency which is arguable although Elliot has had to forego consistency for expediency in our present circumstances. But when King proposes the correct line of policy to the British government he oversteps himself, having yet to establish the immorality of the trade to our parliament. We deny immorality. There is no Act on the British statute book proscribing the sale of opium. We sell it in international waters and the Chinese come to buy it. If the Chinese government objects it can stop its people in the same way the British and American governments operate a coast-guard service to enforce their Customs revenue laws.

In passing we note that King is a leading partner of Olyphant & Co which sells large quantities of Turkish in China from which it derives at least a commission. His firm is also a leading smuggler of camlets into, and silk out of, China.

At page 40 King alleges the Chinese people and government are at idem in opposing the opium trade. He adduces some staged commotions at Canton as evidence. The fighting in front of the factories on 12th December 1838 was due to some Parsees and English striking Chinese boatmen and receiving their resentment in turn. It soon developed into a riot and trouble-makers used the opportunity to loot the factories. Fortunately Wm Jardine alerted the authorities timely who had no difficulty in dispersing the rioters. What evidence of common purpose is there in that?

King mentions the confrontation orchestrated by Baynes as acting President of the Select. What about Marjoribanks’ prior conversation with some Chinese in which he argued strongly for them to take measures against the country traders? As regards Commissioner Lin’s efforts, we have yet to meet a Chinese who does not repudiate them. They all oppose their own government and support us English.

Pages 41 – 46 attack Elliot for assisting Dent. We all thought this was the best thing Elliot did. Dent has a fine reputation for assisting his countrymen. If Dent had been surrendered as a scapegoat he would probably have been executed. Then none of us could return to our native lands with honour.

As regards pages 47 – 61, before King identifies the substitute crops for Turkish and Indian poppy farmers to grow and their profitability, he should first get the Chinese to quit smoking for, so long as they continue, someone somewhere will grow opium to sell to them.

Criminalising opium use simply makes it secret. Legalise it and the glare of publicity will constantly be on it. Any abuses will be known and rectified. At present, every night, thousands of Chinese are engaged in smuggling opium ashore. If it was legalised they could return to their farming and fishing, the Emperor would get a revenue and we will end the violence against His Customs cruisers and officers.

On page 62 King says opium trade is sinful. Well, a Baring is involved in it; the publication founded by Jeremy Bentham commends it.14 It is the best product we have available for trading on the China coast.

Concerning the right of opium owners to compensation for the destruction of 20,000 chests, we expect to get it and if the British government does not pay, it will lose the confidence of the mercantile community. In those circumstances we will take our own steps to get satisfaction direct from China. It should not take long.

On page 64 King makes an allusion to Admiral Drury. Drury was a distinguished and honourable officer. He was not defeated by violent opposition of the Chinese but by the tea-reins of Leadenhall Street.15

Next section illegible.

The most objectionable thing is the inference, that King allows his readers to hold, that Elliot has seen and approved this pamphlet. Elliot never did. There is no such authority in support. It is entirely worthless. 19th February 1840

Vol 13 No 8 – 25th February 1840

We are pleased to report that H E the Governor of Macau has become a subscriber to this newspaper.

Vol 13 No 8 – 25th February 1840

Notice – M/s Gordon & Talbot ceased their partnership in Macau on 1st February 1840. In future O H Gordon will operate our business in America and W R Talbot will manage the China end.

Sgd at Canton, 15th February 1840

Vol 13 No 8 – 25th February 1840

Local news:

  • The Sir Edward Ryan was returning to Macau from the west coast but could make no progress against the winter monsoon and turned for Singapore. She left there 8th January for Calcutta. She reported passing a fleet of the usual numbers of Chinese coasting junks that conduct the Singapore trade. It seems the imbroglio at Canton has not affected China’s trade with Singapore.
  • Several creditors of King Qua and Hing Tai have not collected their latest dividend from Russell & Co, agent of the Hong merchants. They are Eglinton Maclean & Co, the East India Company, Joseph Cragg, L Just & Son, Daniell & Co, J Reid, Morrison, Dadabhoy Hormusjee, Framjee Heerjee and Framjee Pestonjee.

Vol 13 No 8 – 25th February 1840

Arrivals – Mr W Stewart per Cowasjee Family from Calcutta.

Vol 13 No 8 – 25th February 1840

Inverness Courier, 18th September 1839 – James Matheson, a merchant from Canton, has bought the Achany Estate in Sutherland, his native county, for £16,050.

Vol 13 No 8 – 25th February 1840

Letter to the Editor – you recently published a rare anti-opium article from the Calcutta Courier. I wish you to know that the author was not ‘a raving missionary’ as you said but a merchant. On behalf of Christian missionaries I object to your publishing an abusive characterisation ……………. Sgd A Missionary

Editor – The rest of Missionary’s letter contains his opinion on the opium trade. If he can hold views on merchants, we can hold views on missionaries. Nevertheless, we regret including the word ‘raving’.

Vol 13 No 8 – 25th February 1840

Edict of Viceroy Lin of the Two Kwong, 5th February 1840:

Elliot continues to live in Macau in disobedience to our law. I have told the Portuguese to expel him and the other English but they prevaricate. I must now consider the punishment of the Portuguese for their inconstancy.

Remainder illegible.

Published at Macau 20th February.

Vol 13 No 8 – 25th February 1840

Editorial – We have learned two reasons why Carolus Rex abuses the American Consul. It stems firstly from Rex’s request in 1837 to be vice-Consul which was denied and secondly his subsequent request to have his views on regulating the Hong Kong trans-shipment trade forwarded to Elliot, which the Consul of that time refused to do.

Carolus Rex’s proposals were opposed by most of his countrymen.

Since then he has pursued this personal grudge. He says he has a plan to suppress the entire trade in opium. He has profusely disseminated it around the American community and to Elliot and probably to Commodore Reid of USS Columbia when he was here and to his own Government in Washington.

All his hearers have ignored or rejected his schemes.

His visit to the Bogue (during the opium destruction) was completely unproductive from the Chinese point of view. Now he sets out to erase all that activity with his latest plans. He is ridiculous, etc.

Vol 13 No 9 – 3rd March 1840

Extract from a letter of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce to the Governor General-in-Council, 12th November 1839:

Please take measures to protect British lives and property in China in view of the present situation. The Chinese have become hostile and our property is imperilled.

Governor-General’s Reply:

You have specifically asked that the steamer Enterprise be sent to China to succour the English there. We have yet to receive information from China but have seen the Singapore papers and told the Admiral. We feel the (unreported) measures you suggest are premature.

Vol 13 No 9 – 3rd March 1840


  • W F Livingston and T Gemmell per Charles Grant (Pitcairn) for London, 2nd March.
  • C W King and family per Mor for Singapore and Bombay, 28th February.

Vol 13 No 9 – 3rd March 1840

Canton Press, 25th February – Several days ago the body of a Malay sailor was found floating amongst the shipping at Cheung Sha Wan. It was seriously cut and mangled. An inquest was held on Louisa but no evidence of the murderer’s identity was reported to Elliot.

Vol 13 No 9 – 3rd March 1840

Local news:

  • At 8 pm on Friday 27th February two Portuguese soldiers were attacked near the Senate Square in Macau. One was seriously wounded.
  • There was an attempt on Saturday morning to fire the British fleet at Cheung Sha Wan. At 10 am Friday two small junks passed amongst the shipping. At 1:30 am Saturday junks were seen approaching from the north in flames. The arrangement of combustibles, with bamboo guns that throw out fire balls, was devilishly good. Fortunately, the wind veered to the south and they drifted inshore of the big ships into the mass of sampans and smuggling schooners. One touched the schooner Devil and set her on fire but the crew put out the blaze. Some ships slipped their cables to escape, amongst them the Cowasjee Family which then ran aground. We were lucky. Now the captains and officers are alert to the fire risk. They are putting springs on their cables and shifting the berths farther apart.
  • At 9:30 pm Saturday 28th February an Englishman was knocked down by some Chinese in a side street off the Praia Grande. He was robbed of his watch and cash. We have heard there have been other attacks but have no details.
  • The Hoppo’s staff measured several Portuguese ships on Sunday 1st March and their trade is expected to resume soon.
  • On Sunday evening 1st March Captain Dunbar of Cowasjee Family shot his Chief Officer Milne. Dunbar is now detained on HMS Volage.
  • Reports from Macau say some crew of the Balcarras have been involved in an affray ashore with local villagers. Two Lascars are said to have been speared and one has since died.

Vol 13 No 9 – 3rd March 1840

Viceroy Lin has just received a despatch from the Board of War concerning a Petition to the Emperor from Tsang Wang Yen,16 a native of Heungshan now serving as Prefect of Shun Tin Foo:

“Foreigners are fickle. We should not trade with them. We should catch them and exterminate them. Then their greed will be ended and their evil cut off.

“Opium has spread over our land almost beyond control. The Emperor caused deliberations on the matter and in the last year most people have abstained. When He sent Lin to Canton the foreigners became ashamed. They gave-up 20,000 chests and signed the bond. It seemed the problem had been more or less solved.

“But I hear when Elliot took the English ships to the outer waters he also detained new arrivals there and several of them brought opium which has not been surrendered. Also foreign ships cruise our coasts and exchange fire with our war-junks. These foreigners do not respect the bonds they make – their words are worthless. They simply await Commissioner Lin’s departure before resuming their former ways. We have stopped their trade to induce their compliance with our law. They have responded with violence to achieve their ends. They can bear no restraint and even fire on our soldiers. They are horrible people and it is proper to annihilate them.

“Their merchants ships remain in the outer waters and do not leave. I believe their concern is that formerly the profit from foreign trade was large and the officials took their cut to permit it, but now trade is stopped few officials are getting paid off. The foreigners expect these venal officials to influence government policy in their favour and thus they wait.

“Well, we are not dependant on foreign trade like the English. They come here because we are the only source of the teas and medicines they want while we can get by without their woollens, etc. We should end foreign trade entirely. Refuse the cargoes they bring and allow them to take away nothing from China. Eventually some one or more of them may conclude that the benefits of compliance with our law outweigh the disadvantages.

“Some say the foreigners have already considered this and have laid up stocks of tea etc., sufficient for years to come. They should know that old tea becomes tasteless and useless. Others say it is only the English who routinely flout our law. They say stop English trade but preserve the trade of the other nations. They should know that all foreign countries send ships. If we stop only the English they will trans-ship their goods to other nations’ ships. And when we sell to other nations, they will trans-ship their purchases to the English. I beg the Emperor for a law that every country whose ships have traded in opium be barred from trading here. After closing the ports to them, we must patrol the coast to ensure they cannot enter.

“The pirates of Kwangtung Province include a class of boatman who row ‘fast crabs’17 and whose preferred employment is smuggling. Now the stoppage of foreign trade has prevented these people from continuing their former occupation, they have changed to piracy and are plundering the merchants involved in our coastal trade. They steal rice and other provisions and sell it to the foreigners in Hong Kong harbour. The boat people are the supporters of the foreign smugglers and we must exterminate them as well. Shipping on the rivers need not be disturbed but no vessel should be allowed to come-out into the open sea. As for fishermen, they may only fish in the immediate vicinity of their villages. Any disobedient boatman, any venal official should be instantly caught.

“The foreigners get regular supplies of fresh water. We should guard all the sources to prevent foreign access to them. The villagers along the coast should be trained as a militia so they can defend their villages and drive away any foreigners who come in search of food and water. If they show friendship to the foreigners they must be punished. Once food and water is unavailable to the foreigners, they will have nothing to hope for. They rely on their big strong ships and fighting expertise and a direct attack on them might fail but they have long excited the virulent animosity of the coastal villagers and it has only been the fear of disturbance that has caused successive Viceroys and Governors to restrain those angry people.

“We have hitherto treated foreigners as guests but now their trade is stopped we have no further responsibility towards them. Once their food and water supplies are reduced many will leave but some will be obstinate and come spying about in the inner waters. We should not oppose these obstinate foreigners until they have entered deep into the country and then stealthily annihilate them and attack their ships at night. Every captured ship and its cargo should be given to the capturers to encourage them.

“In this way we can cut-off the foreigners from their supporters and bring them to genuinely repent of their crimes. If they are sincerely contrite You might consider allowing them some limited trade. They are the sort of people who need to be continually restrained. Any subsequent attempt they make to trade opium must merit capital punishment and the utter end of their trade. Thus we remove the evil and help the foreigner to control his greed.”

Editor – Tsang also requests a limit to Portuguese trade at Macau, fearing the Portuguese would become a ‘foreign foot in the door.’ He says the Portuguese are entirely dependant on Chinese provisions and have developed an attachment to Macau through long residence. He concludes they are manageable.

Vol 13 No 10 – 10th March 1840


  • In conformity with the notice issued in New York in August 1839, D W C Olyphant and Charles N Talbot have resigned from our partnership whilst William R Talbot will continue to conduct our business here in China. Sgd Charles W King and Wm Howard Morss, Olyphant & Co, Canton 1st March 1840.
  • Turner & Co (whose proprietor is long dead) will represent the closed firm of Eglinton MacLean & Co, including the Lloyd’s Agency. Sgd R H Hunter, Macau, 7th March 1840.

Vol 13 No 10 – 10th March 1840

Editorial – The ‘notorious’ C W King, precedent partner of Olyphant & Co, has written a letter to Elliot. He has not delivered it but instead published it in London where few people understand the nature of our dispute. This is the man who wears yellow stockings. He is an eelskin inflated with vanity which causes sin in himself and others. He has the cunning of the snake.

In his letter he says the smugglers expected in a short time to subvert all China. Why does he say the smugglers expect this? Because of Hsu Nai Tsi’s legalisation memorial? The smugglers did not support legalisation because the opium importers would then have come under the control of the Hong merchants who would monopolise the profits to themselves.

King doubts that the high Provincial officials are being bribed and calls for proofs. This is a cunning ploy to have us expose our knowledge, but he should recall that Viceroy Tang’s son was implicated in operating four smuggling boats with friends. Lampoons on the Viceroy’s integrity were placarded on the Viceregal gates in December 1838 and January 1839. The son was not punished.

At page 11 of the letter, King quotes the Viceroy concerning the attempted execution in the square. He recites that Ho Lan Kin (Ho Yiu Kong) had pledged not to be involved in opium but failed; he had agreed to his own execution; his death was attributable to the pernicious introduction of opium by foreigners. He says that is why the Chinese officials sought to execute him in front of the foreign factories. It was intended, as the Viceroy said, to rouse reflection amongst the depraved portion of the merchants and to assist them in abandoning the opium trade. King says it had nothing to do with ‘disrespect to national flags’.

Now the Viceroy’s son was implicated in opium importing and four of the Viceroy’s official boats were used to transport the drug. Knowing the Viceroy was apparently involved through his son, the foreign community saw the attempted execution of Ho as primarily an insult to their national flags. Ho was as much a victim of Viceroy Tang’s apparent connivance in opium trading as he was of the foreign importers. King is the only foreigner in China who doubts this.

King says the foreigners are blinded by greed which requires them to doubt everything opposed to opium, the source of much of their profits. This is untrue. In October 1838, on the second stoppage of trade, a leading opium importer commenced withdrawing from opium trading and the partners wrote to their constituents requesting they both stop sending opium and cease investing the firm’s funds in opium. This was known to King because, as a Chamber member, he knew of the plan to transfer the opium trade to Macau and this would have involved at least a temporary stoppage of opium imports.

The main reason that we doubted the sincerity of Viceroy Tang was Staunton’s old advice that no Chinese law was applied to foreigners except offences earning capital punishment.

Even if King did not personally know of that English firm’s withdrawal from opium trading, his partner said in the December 1839 edition of the Chinese Repository that the English firm had ceased opium trade upon leaving Canton.18 They transferred all the opium consigned to them to the captains of the ships they employed in the trade and thus abandoned a huge profit. This was a principled decision which did not suit King’s argument.

At page 17 of his letter he mentions the Canton Press’ suggestion of 9th March 1839 that, for trade reasons, the surrender of 15,000 chests was expedient. He also mentions the Canton Register’s point that the high Provincial officials must have known the opium fleet had moved to Whampoa but took no action. This forbearance was actually connivance and we considered it authorised a prescriptive right for us to anchor and smuggle at Whampoa. We are supported by the London Morning Chronicle which says, concerning the opium trade, that ‘usage becomes the law’.

At pages 44-45 King says the opium importers responded to the demand for surrender of opium with ‘go and seize it’ and Dent responded to the Commissioner‘s invitation to interview with ‘come and take me’. This is untrue. When the Commissioner said he wished to seize the opium, the General Chamber wrote him on 21st March that it would appoint a committee to consider the request. It added it would meet with the Hong merchants to report a unanimous wish of the members that the ordinary trade be separated from the opium trade. Dent did not say ‘come and take me’. To the first invitation he said he was busy and would consider it and reply the next day. He then said, whilst he personally held the Chinese government in the highest respect, his foreign colleagues unanimously opposed his attending the interview without a prior ‘safe conduct’ being provided by the Commissioner. Short of that, he would attend only if forced to do so (‘come and take me’).

At page 50 King says the opium was confiscated. We say it was spoliation – threats of death against the Hong merchants, imprisonment of the foreign community, imprisonment of the British representative, and death threats against Elliot and all other foreigners – that is spoliation.

At page 51 he makes assertions at variance with his evidence at the General Chamber meeting of 21st March 1839. The meeting decided that surrender of the opium could not be agreed in a few days. King said he thought the declarations of the Hong merchants were aimed at moving the foreigners to their support. He said the property being surrendered could quickly be replaced. He had learned from How Qua that his (King’s) name had been mentioned to Lin as an independent foreigner not involved in opium trade and with some influence over the other foreigners. He offered himself as intermediary. He had seen How Qua ‘crushed to the ground’ by the weight of his fetters and knew the danger to his life and property (and that of the other Hong merchants) was real. He said of the acts of the Commissioner that practically-speaking we had no alternative but to obey. He said the opium trade was directly destructive of fellow human beings; they are our friends and neighbours; we should not put profits before the health of other people. He recalled the Chamber Chairman cautioning the membership not to incriminate each other. He offered his sympathy to those involved in the opium trade and said it was well-known that a few years earlier the high officials were all involved in the trade and it was then expected that opium would be legalised and admitted on payment of a duty. He identified this as an important point to be urged on Commissioner Lin to have him recognise a duty to compensate us. Even if we failed, at least we can preserve the ‘face’ of the Commissioner and use this as a bargaining point to moderate his position. These were King’s proposals to the meeting.

At page 21 he mentions the 1,000 chests offered for surrender at the meeting of 21st March. This crafty offer to surrender a little opium revealed to the Commissioner that we really had opium to surrender. Prior to the offer he did not know who controlled the stock. He then insisted on all of it. King neglects to mention that this partial surrender was urged on the meeting by the Hong merchants. They thought it sufficient to satisfy the officials and save their own heads.

In the opening address of the Chairman of that meeting, he said the Commissioner’s demand was impossible to satisfy; that we should act unanimously; that English law did not require a suspect to incriminate himself; that proof of wrong-doing rested with the Chinese to adduce and that whatever they did they could not compel any of us to talk.

One member said that if we could surrender a catty we could surrender it all; that a demand for the whole would immediately follow the surrender of a catty. Another member said we could not rob our constituents of their property merely to satisfy the Chinese government.

King however was more concerned for the health of the Hong merchants than the looming bankruptcy of the opium merchants – their fall in social status; the destitution of their families; the debtor’s prison, the workhouse, soliciting of alms and probably death by starvation – he could not conceive of such misery and was willing to destroy the entire trade and all those involved in it to preserve the heads of the Hong merchants. Well, were they really at such risk? What the Commissioner said was that if evidence showed the Hong merchants had sold opium, taken money or given orders for it, then should they not willingly consent to execution. This should be evaluated against his report to the Emperor detailing the people involved, which only mentioned Parsees and other foreigners. He told the Hongs ‘if you did not know of opium trading you are useless, if you did know, death is too light a punishment for you’. On arrival he had said that he would first punish the depraved Chinese who were involved in the trade before dealing with the foreigners. And on a later occasion that he would solicit Death Warrants for one or two of the most unworthy Hong merchants and confiscate their property as a lucid warning to the others. This was to procure the bonds within three days but the Hongs never achieved it. The only Englishmen to sign the bond were Warner of Thomas Coutts, Towns of Royal Saxon and Daniell, consignee of Thomas Coutts. None of the Hongs were seriously punished at any time – it was all stage-managed. But the Hongs told the meeting that two of them would be executed unless the opium was surrendered. This assertion was founded on the vague threats of the Commissioner. This doubtful assertion was the cause of the meeting agreeing to surrender 1,000 chests, the entire own-property of the members. What the Hong merchants did was to play on our kindness to open a crack in our defences. Did not their special pleading in fact illustrate they were guilty of the accusations of the Commissioner – that they did know something and could procure at least a partial surrender?

The reason the Commissioner demanded the surrender of the opium is contained in Elliot’s notice of 18th December requiring all the opium boats to leave the river. King was Elliot’s confidante but he did not know that when the Commissioner published Elliot’s letters to him it was only a partial publication. Those hidden points may have supported Elliot’s position and damaged the Commissioner’s.

The rest of the letter is King’s opinion on what should be done. King came here as a boy and has now returned to his country. We should guard ourselves against him. He has tried to prove our dispute with China concerns opium. Actually it concerns whether China rules the world, whether she will deal on equal terms with the rest of us, whether her laws should be preferred to the law and Constitution of England. If China gets her way, Confucian principles will dominate. We must overthrow her.

Vol 13 No 10 – 10th March 1840

Letter to the Editor, 16th March19 – This letter is to those Chinese officials who care nothing for the effects of opium and everything to prevent the export of silver and gold. Whenever trade is not balanced, one country has to pay the shortfall to the other in bullion. If China understood that, it would open more ports and sell more tea and silk.

Opium importing is done stealthily at night in small boats all along the coast. Because it is illegal the Chinese importers have to pay in the highest value-to-weight commodity available – silver. If opium was legalised it would be imported in the usual way and sold for tea, silk, etc. Silver would be unnecessary.

Lin should by now be aware that no legal power can prevent opium importing. All he has done is to overthrow the prosperity of Canton and make a war with Britain probable. My 13 years in China suggest the lack of armed power and the venality of the officials combined with the domestic demand for opium, will ensure Lin can never succeed. Once the Chinese realise that, the best thing is to legalise it. Then all the attendant evils would end and payment would be in goods not specie.

Sgd Smith Redivivus

Editor – this is a recital of what Hsu Nai Tsi has already said

Vol 13 No 10 – 10th March 1840

Editorial – China is not really concerned by opium imports. The subject was never raised in the last British embassies – Amherst in 1816 and Napier in 1834. Secondly, when HMS Larne left here, Elliot appointed Captain Parry of the smuggling depot ship Hercules to command British shipping at Hong Kong. This was after the Chinese had effectively declared war by imprisoning us all. The Hercules captain is very experienced in opium trade and knows the identities of all the Chinese officials involved in it. He was the ideal choice to command for he could distinguish between our friends and our foes and knew which boats to attack when they came too near.

Vol 13 No 10 – 10th March 1840

Local news:

  • Burglaries and robberies have become prevalent in Macau. 500 experienced burglars are said to have arrived to steal from the English. An American living on the Praia Grande has been burgled as has the house of the Governor of Timor. On Saturday night about $1,000 was stolen from the bedroom of an Englishman in Rua do Hospital although how the thief got passed the servants is obscure. These houses cannot be readily accessed from the gardens behind. The man was awakened as usual by his servant at 7am who reported one of the windows facing the street had been broken. Another Briton left for the Cheung Sha Wan anchorage and that very night his house was burgled. The thieves were so daring as to use a light which was seen by neighbours who raised the alarm.
  • Local readers will be aware that Macau has been inundated by ruffians who are routinely insolent and insubordinate. Their presence, against the background of Tsang Wang Yen’s annihilation proposal and warships in the inner harbour filled with troops, suggests we have outstayed our welcome. We commend Englishmen to travel in public only in groups of three or four, to never go out late at night and, if permitted, to carry arms. There are hundreds of troops north of the barrier who are ready to enter Macau once the order has been given. Perhaps the order will not be given but we would be foolish to ignore the possibility. We note that before the Chinese explode into action, they routinely become precisely just and fair in their public announcements, such as they have been recently.
    In passing we have learned that the character for Kwoon (official) contains two mouths – a sure indication of expected duplicity.
  • Mr Just Senior was robbed of his telescope at 7 am 4th March whilst observing the shipping in the roads from Franciscan Point. The thief landed from a Tanka boat, immobilised Just and wrenched the telescope from him. Just Sr ran after the thief but was stopped and attacked by another man. Later that morning the two accomplices visited a Portuguese shop to sell the telescope for $6 but the shopkeeper recognised it as Just’s and alerted the authorities. The telescope was returned to Just and the thieves were handed over to the Procurador but ‘escaped’ from custody.
  • 9 Chinese government warjunks have been anchored in the inner harbour of Macau for the last 8 – 10 days. Five are near the Lin Fung temple off our racecourse and four are off Turner & Co’s house.
  • The Kwangtung Provincial government has hired 5 Macau boat builders to build 30 boats in Canton. They are ‘fast crabs’ and will have two banks of 14 oars each on either side. They are armed and equipped to capture the opium distribution boats. Our Chinese friends suspect the Macau Tao Tai is scheming – offering trade on the one hand whilst deploying warships at Macau on the other.
  • The Portuguese have had a ship standing-by for two months for Lisbon but the teas, etc., have not arrived from Canton.
  • Several Chinese officials have arrived in Macau to take the (last?) opportunity to buy Western clothes.

Vol 13 No 10 – 10th March 1840

The Macau Tao Tai Yih proclaimed on 1st March 1840 that foreigners and Chinese live together in Macau. Foreigners should obey the law to prevent Chinese being implicated in their offences. Chinese should implicitly obey the law and avoid giving insult to foreigners. Providing the two groups do not intrude on each other, tranquillity will be preserved.

Recently many ruffians arrived in Macau and they rob and burgle, day and night. This is rebellion against the law. When I first took up this duty I instructed all the policemen to expel the thieves from Macau. If anyone has a complaint against the ruffians he should come to the public office in Macau or Heungshan and petition for permission to complain against them. If the policemen fail to expel the robbers but instead connive with them, they will be tried and punished. This order is to be published in the streets of Macau.

Vol 13 No 10 – 10th March 1840

Yih, the Ping Pei Tau of Kau Chow and Lin Chow20 has proclaimed to the natives and foreigners owning shops in Macau, 3rd March 1840:

“The English sold opium to injure Chinese for profit. The Emperor stopped their trade and expelled them but the English still retain 2-3 houses in Macau and the high officials have ordered that all trade in and out of Macau must stop until these last English have gone.

“Recently the price of wood (for fuel) increased as there is a shortage due to the trade stoppage. I have petitioned for the Customs Houses to be reopened solely for receipt of wood. I await a reply. The shopmen of Macau may expect their business to resume soon but there are many nonsensical rumours circulating and those who believe them are being deceived.

“I now order all the military officers in Macau to arrest anyone spreading malicious and deceptive rumours and bring them to trial. I have posted signs throughout my jurisdiction reciting my undertaking “if I ask for money or confuse right and wrong may all my descendants die; if I permit perversion, Heaven and earth will forbid it.”

Vol 13 No 10 – 10th March 1840

Tseang, Keunmin foo, Controller of the river traffic in Shun Tak and Heung Shan, Customs officer for Macau, proclaims against ruffians, dated 6th March 1840:

Lawless people in Macau have been circulating rumours to cause alarm and create opportunities for stealing. All you people should control yourselves, live quietly and obey the law. If you give vent to your instant emotions you will be severely dealt with.

Vol 13 No 11 – 17th March 1840

Bombay Times, 6th and 9th November 1839 (two separate articles, appearing here as one) – the arguments supporting our claims on the British government concerning opium are strong and clear and well-known but they may be set in a more forcible light. This is a matter of principle. The question is ‘will the British government ratify the actions of its representative in China’?

What Elliot was authorised or not authorised to do must not be confused with what he had the power to do. If he had no power he could not exercise it. But the fact that he exercised power proves that he had it. He who exercises power and those who conferred it on him are alike responsible for the consequences. Elliot’s powers may have been unnatural and unconstitutional but whose fault is that? Powers may be unconstitutional and also wielded by incompetent officials. Again whose fault is that? If British merchants in China found Elliot’s powers oppressive did they have any remedy? In fact, the law gave the merchants no right to question him or his interpretation of his authority. It is crystal clear that the people responsible for Elliot were the legislators who empowered him.

We have an analogy in the matter of the slavery compensation cases. Both trade in opium and slave-marketing are widely considered immoral but if the immorality of slavery did not prevent compensation to the merchants in the slave trade, how can it do so in the case of the opium merchants? The thing is that the British government was / is involved in both iniquities and its pecuniary responsibility for slave compensation is a precedent for opium compensation. In fact neither House of the British Parliament acknowledged slave trading whereas the India Company both fosters opium trade and derives the lion’s share of the profits from it. The Company has generally affected ignorance of opium until two years ago when the Bengal Presidency publicly assisted opium speculators and thereby openly recognised the trade. Since then it has no longer been arguable that the Company is not involved.21

Effectively, this puts the government of England at the same moral level as the stock exchange or the race-course.

The Company bears the moral responsibility for the opium trade and it almost exclusively enjoys the proceeds. Those traders who gamble in opium are equally divided between winners and losers. The trade is as addictive as the Drug and the opium trader loves his job, the financial enterprise it calls forth, and the opportunity for fortune.

It is not just the British government that bears responsibility. Before the last charter was granted to the Company, parliament considered the amount of opium revenue and sanctioned it. That was the time when someone should have spoken out. In fact several members denounced the trade with a vehemence that has not since been equalled. In response the involved minister22 evaded the subject, the rest of the ministry’s supporters ignored it and the press had nothing to say. It was clear both parliament and people wanted no restriction of the trade. We find no hint of moral reprobation in the terms of the renewed charter; no warning to the thousands engaged in opium trading. We conclude that the national representatives in parliament were comfortable with it and accordingly it should be defended in the same way we defend our other commercial interests. This assured the opium traders of protection.

If a moral light has since penetrated the Houses of Parliament we will rejoice while concurrently lamenting that this new-found responsibility coincidentally manifests at a time when China has threatened our national opium income. The arguments are more or less the same as with slavery – the pursuit of self-interest completely expels all considerations of morality. Opium trade has for years been sanctioned, or at least tacitly approved, by parliament and those representatives have accordingly assumed a duty to protect it.

On 13th June 1833 Buckingham said in the House “the trade in opium has rapidly increased and has been accurately described by the President of the Board of Control and the member for Berwickshire (Marjoribanks) but they have omitted part of its history which I will reveal to you. It is that the opium monopoly is one of the large monopolies still in the India Company’s hands and it is so productive that opium is often sold at auction for ten times its production cost. The trade is so valuable that the Company’s officer responsible for opium cultivation at Patna gets a greater salary than the Chief Justice of the King’s Bench.

The Company claims to be the guardian of the laws and preserver of the morals of the people under its rule, and it punishes offenders against its own regulations with severity, but it grows opium solely to smuggle into China against the laws of that country and thereby injures the health of smokers and demoralises the Chinese. It is painful to think of the evils done by this trade. If the China traders had something useful to sell that could finance our tea purchases, the commerce would become reciprocally beneficial. As it is, there is a demoralising and mischievous traffic which injures both countries and our guilt rests on the Company which produce the opium in India.23

In reply to this Charles Grant told the House “the subject of the opium and salt monopolies in India are under the serious consideration of the government”.

It is apparent from this exchange that the excuse of ‘overlooking’ is a non-starter. On completion of its ‘serious consideration’ five weeks later on 22nd July the government reported ‘no-one can deny the expediency of removing the taxes on salt and opium but it should not be forgotten that these taxes produce a revenue of £2½ millions of which salt produces 1.6 million rupees (c. £200,000). So there it is – “we do not like these monopolies but they are very profitable” or “I would discountenance smuggling but look at the revenue it brings.” Thus parliament is responsible both for what it did and for what it left undone.

The claims for opium compensation appear strong:

  • First there is the claim on the British government to ratify the express engagement of its representative.
  • Second there is the neglect of the government’s first duty in leaving its own minister and an entire British trading community unprotected – had adequate protection been available the confiscation could not have occurred.
  • Third the government sanctioned the trade by renewing the Company’s Charter thereby morally binding itself to protect it like any other trade, including the use of force to obtain redress for sudden aggression.

The claims against the Company as the abettors of the trade from start to finish is exclusive of the above three points.

We conclude that the British government has no choice but to keep faith with its people and demand restitution from China for property that should never have been lost had it taken its duty seriously and properly protected the opium trade.

NB – The author of this opinion might be suspected of special pleading. We (the Editor of the Bombay Times) wish to say he is the same person who has for long exposed the moral evils of the trade with some effect and has absolutely nothing to do with it commercially.

Vol 13 No 11 – 17th March 1840

The Canton Press has reported the rumoured impending arrival of certain ships (the India Company’s war fleet), as reported by the Sylph which has just arrived. This is treason. We should not betray intelligence to the enemy. We know Palmerston has asked for copies of the China newspapers and considers them authoritative.

Vol 13 No 11 – 17th March 1840

Memorial of the Merchants of Liverpool to Palmerston, reprinted in Penang Gazette, 4th January 1840:

We are involved in China-trade. The trade is stopped and the British community has withdrawn from Canton. This trade involves more than one third of all British Indian exports (mainly cotton and opium). China is also a buyer of British manufactures. In the seven months before this latest stoppage, exports to China from Liverpool were worth £800,000. This is an important trade on which a substantial part of British revenue depends.

Without considering the propriety of the opium trade, we wish to know your intentions regarding British property left at Canton or Macau by order of Elliot. Will you protect this trade in future? The delay in your deciding is causing British business to be lost to foreigners. We know one extensive shipper of British goods who has directed that his property at Canton be placed in charge of an American house because it is safer than leaving it with another Briton. British goods formerly consigned to Britons, are now consigned to Americans. The Chinese have responded to our conciliatory efforts with insult and contempt. We cannot arrange the trade satisfactorily unless you ensure we get Chinese respect.

Vol 13 No 11 – 17th March 1840

Editorial from a London newspaper – The British government’s refusal to ratify Elliot’s engagements will mortify the opium traders, particularly those from Bombay. Representatives of the Bombay, Calcutta and Canton opium traders met with Lord Melbourne but according to a private letter, the Prime Minister laughed at them and wondered how they could suppose such a loss might merit compensation.

The Government has also declined to pay Elliot’s drafts on it to £63,000 for extra opium which he bought from Dent & Co to make up the number of chests surrendered.24 We will now have to bring our claims before parliament. Many of Elliot’s receipts were returned to Bombay in part payment for new opium supply. This will unsettle the traders of Malwa.

Editor – If Melbourne really laughed, he was laughing at his own handiwork – the Commission sent to China in 1834 was a Whig job. It has done nothing so far at a cost in salaries of nearly double what Elliot agreed to pay Dents for the opium shortfall, which draft has been dishonoured. What will parliament and the people say when they learn that the government has known for 4-5 years that a serious misunderstanding with China over opium was probable?25 The translations of the memorials of Heu Kiu and Choo Tsun, etc., were printed and forwarded to H M ministers and Elliot must have said something to warn of the approaching danger from opium trade. After all, remember his public notice of December 1838? Nevertheless, the governments of India and Britain remained silent and increased the production of opium. Is this not tacit approval of the trade?

But blame is less for ministers and more for parliament. The two Houses, particularly the ‘reformed’ House of Commons, vote the Superintendent of Trade’s money annually and he has now lost us the China trade. England is a trading nation. Free and unrestricted commerce underlie our national economy. The indemnification we ask for can soon be recovered in increased trade. If they do not pay, you can forget that song “Polly put the kettle on…” because there will be no tea to keep the people from the ravages of gin, etc. We think the government would do well to reconsider its decision.

Vol 13 No 11 – 17th March 1840

Morning Chronicle – British government policy on opium should by now be fixed. Elliot has charged the Chinese with being accessories to the trade, with being parties to its continuation, and of drawing profits annually from it. If this is true the British people should not have to contribute a penny – the government can demand full indemnification from China. A sufficient force should be sent to Canton for reparations. If not granted, the troops should be landed and the fleet sail up the river. We are told this is easy.

If it can be established that Chinese officials sanctioned the trade, the first duty of the British government will be to demonstrate that Englishmen cannot be wronged with impunity. Foreign visitors to a country can only know its laws from the government of that country. If Chinese officials allowed and profited from the opium trade year after year (regardless of what their government’s official policy may have been) they allured the foreigners into continuing the business.

Opium is contraband in China but when a course of dealing is developed over forty years it becomes the law and it is too late for the Chinese to repudiate their own officials and assert some other thing is the law. The Chinese government always evaded its responsibility by setting up a handful of Hong merchants and saying they were actually responsible to enforce the law. These are the people who bought and distributed the opium and the Chinese government knew it and ‘taxed’ them heavily for it. They were more responsible for the trade than the foreign importers because they encouraged it and stimulated domestic demand thus ensuring the cultivation of the poppy continued and was extended.

We conclude that the confiscation of opium was not justifiable and the British government is bound to insist its merchants be fully indemnified. All this relates to the past.

For the future, we need to make arrangements. If the Chinese want to stop opium trade or to legalise it, we can talk about it, but overall, considering the last forty years and Elliot’s charge that the opium trade has been chiefly encouraged and protected by high officials of Kwongtung, it is clear the English people should not have to contribute to the compensation due. The essential thing is to be high-handed with these clever and conceited people. They must be taught to submit before they can understand justice. If they hesitate to compensate us, an army should be sent to teach them that our property cannot be despoiled with impunity.

Vol 13 No 11 – 17th March 1840

London Editorial – The opium trade is one of the most interesting commercial topics. Everyone involved is dissatisfied that government has not decided its policy.

A memorial from M/s Acramens Bush Castel & Co of Bristol to Palmerston asserts the smuggling of opium into China is sanctioned by the British parliament as much as the sale of opium by the Company is. Opium for smuggling to China is openly sold at regular public auctions in Calcutta whilst all three Presidencies (Calcutta, Bombay & Madras) regularly export it to China.

A considerable amount of cant has been written on the subject, mainly by the Times of London, but the main thing is the Chinese seizure of our property which was done in a flagrantly illegal way. Our tea and other trades are associated with opium and prices will soon be affected. Cheap congous are already 1/10d and twankey is 1/11d per lb.

Vol 13 No 11 – 17th March 1840

Bengal Catholic Repository, 14th January – 36 convicts being transported from Bombay to Singapore have commandeered their ship Virginia, obtained the ship’s arms, killed the captain and mate, plundered the ship and left in the boats to go ashore near Mangalore. The mails to Singapore and China (possibly containing orders from London for Elliot) were destroyed. The Bombay government had apparently arranged no guards on the convicts.

Vol 13 No 11 – 17th March 1840

Woo, Heungshan heen, says the Macanese require fuel but suppliers decline to sell it in the present circumstances. You are allowed to bring fuel to Macau for sale but you must not create artificial shortages and drum up the price. 4th March 1840

Vol 13 No 11 – 17th March 1840

Tseang, Keunmin foo of Macau, etc., says there are troublemakers in Macau spreading rumours and trying to create disorder so they can effect robberies. You must all live quietly and pursue your lawful trade. Anyone breaking the law will be heavily punished. 6th March 1840

Vol 13 No 11 – 17th March 1840

O Comercial do Macau of 7th March, recited in Canton Press 14th March, notes the Heungshan heen has answered the Portuguese Procurador’s complaint of increasing robberies on 7th March:

“You say on the night of 3rd March a Portuguese soldier, returning from shutting the campo gate, was insulted on the Praia Grande by several Chinese and an affray was only prevented by the soldier’s withdrawal.

“You say on 4th March, Just Sr was robbed of his telescope. You say you reported both these offences but others continue to occur.

“These bad men will receive no indulgence from the law. The new magistrate of Macau is to catch and punish them as a warning to others and to pacify the residents. There is no need to repeat your complaint as we are already dealing with it.”

Vol 13 No 11 – 17th March 1840

Correction – The Canton Register has received authoritative advice that J N Daniell did not sign the bond, as alleged by Commissioner Lin and reported by us last 29th October. The same impeccable source has given us more information on the entry of the Thomas Coutts into the river.

The vessel first anchored off Lantau where Daniell boarded her and learned Captain Warner was determined to enter the river to offload. Daniell offered to receive the cargo and manage the ship’s affairs if Warner would anchor outside but he refused. Daniell, as consignee, then declined to accept the cargo. He and his assistant Dallas left the ship.

Warner sailed up to the Bogue where he was met by a boat from How Qua carrying passports for James Daniell, Matthew Daniell and Dallas allowing them to continue up to Canton. Only Matthew Daniell was present to accept his passport and he went up with the ship to Whampoa.

Finally we must state that Daniell & Co shipped no teas on Thomas Coutts.

Vol 13 No 12 – 24th March 1840

The opium claimants have received a reply from the British Treasury, dated 11th November 1839:

Parliament is yet to vote funds for your claims. Its sanction is required before any settlement can be recognised and paid. We understand government does not propose to ask parliament for funds.

Vol 13 No 12 – 24th March 1840

The East India and China Association has also sent copies of letters between Elliot and the China traders to the Foreign Office and asked if the home government sanctions Elliot’s stoppage of trade.

In reply on 27th November the Foreign Office says Elliot’s notices appear to have been proper and expedient at the time they were made but it cannot say how long they might be in force.

Vol 13 No 12 – 24th March 1840

The East India and China Association is co-ordinating merchants’ claims and placing them on the Foreign Office. It has received the following from Palmerston, dated 28th November:

‘You ask, if the government intends a blockade or whatever of Canton, that you may be advised first in order to notify your members in China. You must exercise your own judgment. We cannot give you any particulars.’

Vol 13 No 12 – 24th March 1840

Letter to the London Times from Gould Dowie & Co, 2nd December 1839:

We wish to know if the British government proposes any intervention in China so we may advise our correspondents at Canton. This involves not only London exporters but Glasgow, Manchester, et al.

The deprived China traders have already received an intimation that no compensation will be paid by the British government. They place their faith in Britain obtaining compensation from China. They surrendered their property in exchange for a guarantee from Elliot. They thought that British policy would have been decided by now.

Its not just opium at stake but the tea supply. No-one knows what to do and the tea stock is diminishing. Some parties think the opium seizure should be made into a national quarrel. The value of British shipping and property in China or shortly to arrive there is about £3 millions. We have never risked such great interests before.

Vol 13 No 12 – 24th March 1840

Letter to the Editor – For the first time since the perfidious Stuart dynasty, the British government has broken a financial engagement. Elliot’s Opium Bills are to be dishonoured. The legality of the decision appears doubtful.

I think Elliot acted illegally, injudiciously and rashly on the opium matter. It was unprecedented for a government servant to do what he did, yet we all know when we employ an Agent overseas that we remain answerable for his acts retaining only a right of recovery from him in appropriate circumstances. This is precisely the position of the British government.

If they now plan to send an expedition out here to settle the terms of trade with China, who will finance it? Which of us will hand over his silver in return for a General’s or Admiral’s Bill on the Treasury? The British representatives will be forced to discount national Bills. What of the personal credit of H M Superintendents? Would you provide them with a cask of beef or a coil of rope?

Sgd Delta, 22nd March

Vol 13 No 12 – 24th March 1840

Corrie & Co London Prices Current; 2nd December 1839, tea market:

The auctions have been influenced by news from Macau dated July 1839 that trade had not then resumed and by a rumour that the British government intends military intervention in China.

Shipments of tea from Canton from 1st October 1838 to the closure of trade are estimated at 26 million pounds of black and 4.7 million of green. This compares with 32 millions black and 10.2 millions green in 1837 / 38. Re-exports this year are 3.5 million pounds as against 2.3 million last year.

Speculators have entered the market and prices are up for all types. Ordinary congous sold for 2/6d – 2/7d per lb. Common twankey was 2/10d.

Vol 13 No 12 – 24th March 1840

The most recent edition of Portuguesa na China reports the departure of the Governor of Macau, Adriam Accacio da Silveira Pinto, who is appointed to command the garrison at Goa. His replacement is not identified.

Vol 13 No 12 – 24th March 1840

The Empress of China died on 13th February at 1 am. The Civil Service is ordered to mourn for three days during which all public business will be suspended. Thereafter for 27 days they may not wear official clothing and no one may marry or play music. They are forbidden to cut their hair for 100 days. Similar restraints are placed on the military. No-one is allowed to burn incense. No high official may give a party or musical entertainment until next year.

Vol 13 No 12 – 24th March 1840

Local news:

  • While the Cacador’s crew were being returned from Hainan to Canton they were repeatedly offered opium by their Chinese escort.
  • The day before the last Heungshan heen left office, he released one hundred smokers of, and dealers in, opium, one of whom has told us of his experiences in detention. He says he was nearly starved for the entire year. All the time he was there, the magistracy staff were preparing, selling and smoking opium themselves – precisely the offence he was accused of but not tried for. Before the heen left office, all his retinue provided themselves with a good supply of the Drug for their private use, perhaps for resale. He was told one of the Emperor’s nephews prepares and sells opium to the guards in the Imperial palace.

Vol 13 No 12 – 24th March 1840

Viceroy Lin has reopened Macau trade, 18th March:

“The Portuguese assumed they could allow the English to reside at Macau and we consequently closed our Customs Houses and stopped their trade. They now say they have expelled the English. The Procurador has written to say his government would not dare to allow the English to reside in Macau ever again.

“This manifests respect for the law and I compassionately permit them their free and unrestricted trade as formerly. Tell the shopkeepers of Macau, the traders and ship owners of every Chinese province, that Macau has reopened for business in the usual way with the exception you and they may not deal in English goods. Should you do so you will be severely punished.”

Vol 13 No 13 – 31st March 1840

China sends trade caravans to Ava, the capital city of Burma and Major Henry Burney, our Resident there, discovered they bring opium. He has enquired into its provenance. None of the Chinese were initially willing to explain where they got it but further discussion revealed they were ignorant of the appearance of the poppy.

Burney first suspected that the opium was the adulterated product of the Company but after investigating several caravans, he found people who recognised the capsule and understood how opium was extracted from it. They told him poppies had been farmed for 8-10 years in China at Mei Tu, 2 days journey from Tali, but it was a furtive business as the central government proscribed it. The quantities involved were reportedly small.

Phipp’s China of 1835, says that opium is grown in Yunnan and Chinese Tartary for sale in Ava at about 10 Rupees per lb. The Shan people of Laos, who also trade to Ava, do not use opium.

Vol 13 No 13 – 31st March 1840

A Supreme Court official at Peking named Chau Ching Wu has told the Emperor that opium is produced in China due, he says, to the neglect of provincial officials. An order was consequently issued to all provinces to suppress opium farming and the Yunnan Viceroy (our old friend Yuen Yuen) replied that it was grown along his frontiers with neighbouring states and he will try to end it.

The Emperor was angered by Yuen’s uncertainty and told him to implicitly obey His instructions and eradicate poppy farming in Yunnan.26

Vol 13 No 13 – 31st March 1840

Arrivals – HMS Druid (Capt Lord John Churchill) from Sydney. She is fitted with 30 x 32 pounders, 2 x 8” guns and 12 smaller forecastle guns. Each broadside throws 740 lbs of shot.

Vol 13 No 13 – 31st March 1840

Notice – It appears likely that the Chinese will try to fire the English fleet at the Cheung Sha Wan anchorage during night-time. Captains should post look-outs and take care.

Sgd Capt H Smith, HMS Volage, 24th March

Vol 13 No 13 – 31st March 1840

The jurist Sir Alexander Johnstone, father of our 2nd Commissioner, is a candidate for parliamentary election at Dumfries on the retirement of General Sharp.

Vol 13 No 13 – 31st March 1840

The Asiatic Journal of September 1839 contains an exposition of the opium trade “to rescue the public from ignorant or dishonest writers”:

The Editor says ‘all that can be said against the Company is that it so loaded opium with duties as to impede its consumption.’ This is false. There is no duty raised in Bengal presidency on opium. There is instead a revenue raised at auctions that derives from commercial competition to obtain supply. In the 1831 / 32 season (when a Select Committee of the Commons recommended maintaining the Bengal opium monopoly) 7,938 chests were auctioned and by 1838 this had risen to over 20,000 chests.

The Asiatic Journal says ‘the Company would choose to prevent the use of opium except for medical reasons, out of compassion for mankind, but, this being impracticable, they regulate and palliate the evil’.

The Asiatic Journal Editor seems not to recall that in 1822 the Bengal government itself consigned half-chests to China to test interest in the new packing. A few years later it packed Patna in small square cakes, as requested by smugglers, to make its covert carriage across the frontier easier (in the wide sleeves of a Chinese jacket). A few years on and they were wrapping the balls in dungaree cloth instead of poppy leaves which added the term ‘canvas balls’ to the smugglers’ secret language. The packing in each chest of 40 balls was arranged to produce a nett weight of one picul (133 lbs), the familiar Chinese weight.27

The Company’s Bengal ball has an outer covering of poppy petals made sticky with a gum prepared from the plant.

The Marathas’ Malwa opium cake, on the other hand, is pure opium which is lightly brushed with oil and rolled in desiccated petal fragments before shipment. The Bengal government consulted regularly with leading purveyors at Canton on the wants and wishes of the Chinese consumer. When occasional shipments were found to be inferior it paid compensation by a draft drawn on the Company which was duly paid.

As regards duty on opium, the Indian government first unsuccessfully tried to suppress the shipment of Malwa opium from the Portuguese port of Damaun.28 They then saved the expense of the preventive service employed on this task by commencing a licensing regime for Malwa shipped through Bombay, thus obtaining an income from it. In January 1836 the Bengal government considered loaning funds to auction buyers which, had the measure been carried, would have required the Company’s Agents here to be consignees of the drug. Several test shipments were made to English firms in Canton and the invoices for these were signed on behalf of the Bombay government. Would the publication of any one of them assist the Bengal government and Company in recognising their role in the trade?

These observations are an incomplete review of the efforts the Company has made to impede the opium trade.

Vol 13 No 13 – 31st March 1840

  • Commercial Advertiser, 23rd January 1840 – Everyone, except the Canton Register, agrees that smuggling opium into China cannot be justified.
  • The Englishman – We have been told a thousand times by the smuggler’s newspaper, the Canton Register, that there is no justice for foreigners in China.

Editor Slade responds:

The Editors of these two newspapers were responding to our issues of 3rd and 10th December 1839. We cannot see why they should make these assertions.

We rely on the Calcutta Courier of 29th November 1837 for our defence:

‘For the first time we find a Canton paper, the Canton Register, calling on British power to aid China in putting down opium smuggling. This trade may be important to Bengal’s finances but it is jeopardising the entire legal trade.’

This must refer to our remarks of 26th September 1837, recited on 30th January 1838 and in other issues, in which we said ‘for England to take a proper position in the East requires she first abandon the opium business’.

The two newspapers that are critical of us express the emotional view about opium. We have always been objective and dispassionate. We stand by our country and our friends and will not be influenced by a pretence of morality.

We inform the Englishman that our smuggling schooners on the coast have more than once protected Chinese coasting ships from pirates, disguised as government cruisers. The reasons we assert the justice of war are the deliberate invasions of our rights by 1/ detaining us at Canton, 2/ seizing the opium stock under threat of death and 3/ insulting the British representative.

According to Staunton (Chinese Embassy, pages 1,712 –1,715), the main problem with our relationship with China is the attitude of the Empire towards everything non-Chinese. They have no interest in the procedures we have evolved to regulate the relationships of states with each other. They live behind perfect natural frontiers that have always kept foreigners out and they live their lives without interruption from outside. The internal regulation of society has been independently developed and bears no relationship to our own systems. The external and internal policies hang together in a coherent whole that places tranquillity at the apex of government purpose. Even the concepts of war and peace differ – war is necessarily some type of rebellion (as it invariably involves a neighbouring vassal) while peace entails submission of one side to another.

Vol 13 No 13 – 31st March 1840

Edict of the Kwangtung government, 23rd March:

The pilots report that the English ships have been successively driven away. There are still many in the outer waters and Chinese traitors mingle with them for profit regardless of the risk to their lives.

On 29th February the Admiral attacked the remaining ships with fire and we are about to take further measures against the English but we do not wish to harm other foreigners.

The Hong merchants will brief the Americans (who have given the bond and dare not smuggle opium or trans-ship British cargo) to notify all other countries’ merchants not to anchor near the English fleet for their own protection.

Vol 13 No 13 – 31st March 1840

Editorial – an interesting fact has come to light. We have learned that a great part of the opium surrendered to Commissioner Lin (over £1 millions of it) was owned by merchants in London.29 This is sufficient to ruin not only those opium holders but many of their trading partners as well. This should prompt parliamentary reflection as to who will bear the loss.

These London merchants bought the opium from the Company, which is effectively part of the British government, and they shipped it to China to be smuggled in. The Chinese have always had a law against opium but only started enforcing it recently.

On these facts there is no reason to compensate them but – wait a bit – Parliament has established an executive branch in China. It has sent representatives here to promote and protect British trade. Those representatives are empowered to make regulations and impose penalties for their breach, etc. When Elliot required the opium stock ‘for the service of the British government’ it was purported to be an official act, a directive requiring obedience.30 This is not a matter of international law or of diplomacy – it was simply following the orders of the appointed local chief.

Forgetting the strong legal case and considering only the justice of the matter, if the merchants thought Elliot was a bone fide national representative they had to obey him regardless of whether he exceeded his powers or not. They thought he had the power, the visiting warship captains followed his orders, even the Chinese accepted him as a Ling Sze and he himself appeared to believe he had the power.

If it was a mistake it was sincerely made and there were no means at hand to suggest it might have been wrong. The government has to pay. Our opinion on the way ahead duplicates Mr W Curling Young’s in his letter below:

Letter to the Editor of the Colonial Gazette, 3rd December 1839:

In your October edition you mention the many islands off the China coast, several with sheltered deep-water anchorages and adequate fresh water. You say they are uninhabited due to absence of law enforcement and may therefore be occupied by anyone who can seize and hold them. You say England should take one and make a new Singapore.31

The project of opening China to our trade has so far defied embassies and expeditions. The practicability of your scheme rests on the advantages China would get, the facilities the selected island would provide for increasing our trade, its characteristics generally and the weight of opinion in support of your proposal.

Chinese culture considers trade as vulgar. They deny any reliance on foreign trade for revenue.

The islands form a piratical republic operated by Chinese members of Tien Dei Wui (literally Heaven & Earth Societies – Triads – the people who do the smuggling for the foreigners) from the mainland.32 These Triads are a disaffected and persecuted group who have occupied the islands using armed ships and built forts to control the harbours. They control the whole China coast to Hainan. Government corruption and neglect has made them desperate enough to oppose the authorities and establish their alternative government. They fund their lifestyle by preying on the coasting junk trade and the villages along the coast and rivers. A Canton Viceroy once told British merchants that the central government could not afford the estimated 200,000 Taels to pacify the islands.

By avoiding the Canton system we can avoid the costs of bribing the Kwongtung officials and their collectors, the Hong merchants, and set up an alternative system that could deliver cheaper goods. We could extend our commerce to the east coast. Although China has an enormous internal trade and really does not need foreign commerce, there is evidence that a part of the coastal population depend on it. England formerly operated factories at Amoy, Chusan, Ningpo and on Taiwan but each was successively abandoned to avoid the onerous squeezes of the local officials which made trade unprofitable. The foreign trade could also deliver grain which is frequently in short supply. There seems to be a famine in China at least once every three years. They operate a granary-storage system to provide for lean times but it does not work.

There is a great demand in the north for some British manufactures which Russian caravans to Kyakhta satisfy. The Canton system does not well supply north China. The problem is that our goods are suitable for cool countries but Canton is tropical and the Hong merchants, being southerners, hardly recognise the utility of our products. The Russians carry our woollens, bombazines and chintzes. Velveteens that sell for 2/- a yard in London sell for 9/- at Kyakhta.

The Chinese coasting trade is unable to bring a sufficient supply of tea to our bases in the Eastern isles when trade at Canton is stopped.

The thing that stops us developing relations with China is her diplomatic fastidiousness. It has only been the hope of a friendly arrangement that has prevented our demanding free trade as a right. du Halde has written that Chekiang is the richest province in the Empire. Fukien produces the finest teas and has a valuable trade with neighbouring countries.

The Fukienese are the most industrious people in China. They largely control the regional trade. The Fukienese are generally oppressed by the officials but the people of Amoy are somehow immune to this. They are the most appropriate people with whom to establish trade.

In 1833 Sir George Staunton moved a series of resolutions in the Commons. These noted that there are immense advantages flowing from an unrestricted trade; that we should fully understand the causes of Chinese exclusiveness; that the influence of the Company has alone secured uninterrupted trade; that if we exclude the Company from China trade we must provide some equally efficient means for uninterrupted business, and that, unless bilaterally agreed, the appointment of representatives to China is useless.

In his 8th resolution Staunton notes that if the Company’s system cannot efficiently be replaced, it will be necessary to withdraw British trade from Canton and establish it on an insular possession on the China coast where it will be free of oppression. This is what the Colonial Gazette advocates.

In 1837 G T Lay, the naturalist on Captain Beecher’s expedition, proposed the occupation of the Bonin Islands as a trading base.

Finally, if a reminder of the need for a base ashore is required, you need only study the rise and fall of the Dutch, Portuguese and British factories on the China coast. The occupation of an island and the application of British capital and commercial energy will suffice to settle the China trade on secure terms.

Sgd Wm Curling Young.33

Vol 13 No 13 – 31st March 1840

Asiatic Journal, November 1839 – there is much talk about opium, cotton and tea. On opium, the 26 firms who surrendered their stock appear to have a strong case for compensation from the Company. Opium sales since the surrender have been brisk. Manila has become the depot for opium storage from whence schooners supply the China coast. An entire ship’s cargo was recently sold at one place for $600 per chest. As regards Assam tea and Indian cotton we refer readers to Bruce’s report on the former and Briggs on the latter.

Vol 13 No 13 – 31st March 1840

Notice – Colonel Jose Antonio Vieira da Fonseca, commandant of the garrison at Goa, is appointed Governor of Macau

Vol 13 No 13 – 31st March 1840

Last Sunday three Englishmen boarded the Chinese government lighters in the inner harbour of Macau off the Lin Fung Temple. They found the 15 boats contained about 500 soldiers. There were 2-3 government ‘fast crabs’ amongst them. The crews said another 400 troops were expected. They were friendly and civil.

In the courtyard of the temple itself were 3 brass and 3 long iron cannons mounted on iron stands about 2 feet high. They could be traversed on the fulcrum of the stand. The breech rested on the ground. This arrangement must ensure that accuracy is impossible.

Vol 13 No 14 – 7th April 1840


  • M/s Markwick & Smith have dissolved their partnership. Debtors and claimants should contact M M de Souza who is finalising the accounts. Sgd Chas Markwick & John Smith, Cheung Sha Wan, 1st April
  • John Smith will continue in business under his own name as auctioneer, commission agent, shopkeeper and hotel proprietor in the premises of the late M/s Markwick and Smith, located at the beginning of the Praia Grande. Sgd John Smith, Macau, 2nd April

Vol 13 No 14 – 7th April 1840

Chinese Repository corrections in the March 1840 edition:

  • In our January edition we reported the murder of some Chinese officials. We now have a reliable account of the matter. Our correspondent reminds us that the event occurred after the burning of the Bilbaino, the piracy of the Black Joke and attempted seizure of the Ann. It was a time when our seamen were particularly cautious.
    A coast guard boat was closely observing the foreign schooners at Cheung Sha Wan and interfering with those junks that approached them. It had 50 oars and was very fast. To deter it, the schooners’ boats were lowered and a party of foreigners boarded the Chinese government boat. A Spanish crewman went first and was knifed. He killed his assailant. The other officials jumped overboard. Some swam ashore and others to nearby boats. A few were picked up by the foreigners and brought back to the opium schooners where their queues were roughly cut off.34 They were then sent ashore.
  • Hing Tai’s bankruptcy was only partially due to his smoking opium. We mentioned him in our February article only to illustrate the way opium is smoked in China.
  • In our January edition we said opium has ranged from $700 – 1,200 per chest during the last six months. This was too high. The average prices each month were October Patna $670; November Malwa $685; December Benares no sales; January 1840 (due to scarcity caused by British cruisers) $880; February $700 – 750; March all types $450.
    Due to increased expenses in distributing opium to the East Coast there is a surcharge of $70 exclusive of the usual commission before the balance is remitted to the owner.

Vol 13 No 14 – 7th April 1840

The Mong Ha (Wang Hea) villagers have spread nightsoil along either side of the path to their village. Foreigners use this path for exercise. The villagers have not done this before and it is a real nuisance.

Vol 13 No 14 – 7th April 1840

Two black slave boys were caught stealing potatoes at Mong Ha village on Sunday. The villagers seized them and what has become of them is unknown.

Vol 13 No 14 – 7th April 1840

From a private letter post-marked London, 5th November – one of Elliot’s drafts for surrendered opium has been presented to and paid by the Treasury. The holder is a powerful man and payment is said to not be a precedent for the other drafts which total over £2 millions.

Vol 13 No 14 – 7th April 1840

The Asiatic Journal of November 1839 recites an old letter from the Calcutta government to the Bombay Chamber of Commerce dated 27th September 1837:

You enquire about Bengal’s recent measures to relieve the losses of purchasers at opium auctions this last season. You impugn our justice and say you have lost confidence in the government. You should know that the opium auctions at Calcutta are a means of levying a heavy duty on Patna and Benares opium. This ‘duty’ varies with demand but when it becomes so great as to threaten the marketability of Bengal opium, we remit a part to restore the trade.

You say this remission is in violation of the conditions of auction. We merely responded to the difficulties of our customers by relieving them of part of the cost. They asked for help and we gave it. Had we allowed the price of Bengal opium to fall, as you seem to say we should, it would have reduced the value of your Malwa as well.

Editor – this shows the Bengal government considers the rebates allowed on the 1836 sales were a reduction of duty. This is sophistry. Duty is duty, rebate is rebate. The auction system is simply a means to get the best prices for a commodity of fluctuating value. We append a sentence from a letter from the Bengal Government’s Board of Opium to a local trader in 1828:

“…. Herewith a bill of lading for 2 boxes of opium on the Hercules…..”

Let us hear no more of the Company’s assertion it was not involved in opium trading.

The fact is that the entire British people have benefited from buying tea with opium rather than silver. It has made the drink cheaper. They have all enjoyed the luxuries provided by the opium trade. Now they should share in the sacrifices.35

Vol 13 No 14 – 7th April 1840

Edict of the Hoppo, 26th March:

“Macau has enjoyed China-trade for centuries and is allowed 25 ships per year. In the last year their trade was twice stopped and the imports were stored in their warehouses where they spoiled. Now trade has been reopened on their application but it is feared that they may again allow other foreigners to trans-ship goods through Macau. If we see any small boats going hither and thither we will know what is occurring.

“Actually the Macau Customs revenue is reduced, their fleet is small and inadequate to carry sufficient goods for their own consumption, and little real danger exists. The Chinese and Portuguese merchants should study this Edict. There is no recent history of Macau trading in broadcloth and camlets. You must pursue only proper trade. There may be no deception, no selfishness, no defrauding the revenue.”

Vol 13 No 15 – 14th April 1840

Notice – The Portuguese ship Activa has sailed for Lisbon taking J M Marques, Governor of Timor (financed and administered from Macau), back home.

Vol 13 No 15 – 14th April 1840

“We are an Englishman” John Slade, Editor, Canton Register

Vol 13 No 15 – 14th April 1840

Memorial to the Emperor:

We have expelled the English but still they linger. In July 1839 an English ship was spying at the Tiger’s Mouth. Captain Wong Chung’s cruiser fired on it and it fled. Then the law-abiding Daniell and Towns brought their ships to Whampoa for trade. The other British ship captains requested the same privilege.

But in September HMS Volage and Hyacinth came to the Tiger’s Mouth. Admiral Kwan fired at them and several men died. The English left and should not presume to return. We solicit Imperial favour for Wong Chung and Admiral Kwan.

The Emperor replies:

I recognise the conduct of the ancient heroes. Kwan is made a Pa Tu Lu; Wong is made an Admiral. Compassion shall be conferred on the troops.

Vol 13 No 16 – 21st April 1840

Letter of the Bombay Chamber to the China and East India Association dated 28th November 1839:

A Chinese has been killed in a fight, the British have been expelled from Macau and Elliot has requested the British and Indian governments to close their ports to any cargoes brought on British shipping from Canton.36

This stoppage of trade directly impoverishes the Company’s Directors and indirectly all British commerce. Britain loses the revenue from Chinese silks and teas; the Indian government loses the sea duties it levies on China trade as well as the opium auction income and the vast amount of bullion remitted from China. The availability of that silver affects the value of some of India’s staple products from which the government also obtains a revenue.

The China trade is important to the Company as a means of remitting the ‘home charges’. That importance moved parliament, when it revoked the Company’s monopoly on tea, to allow them to keep agents at Canton to manage the lucrative trade finance whereby the ‘home charges’ were met.

The indirect benefits that Britain obtains are also important. Surplus funds from China trade flow into London to extend the resources of British banks around the globe. Indian trade with China finances Chinese exports to Britain; the value of one predicates the extent of the other. Our China trade is really a very important national asset. It is accordingly lamentable to see this trade conducted without protection.

Bombay is particularly interested as over half this Presidency’s trade is with China. Our exports and imports are each £4.8 millions of which the China trade is £2.7 millions in exports and £1.7 millions in imports. Bombay shipowners also have 28 ships of from 400 – 1,400 tons employed on the China trade. We have discovered that the huge amount of property we sent to China in the 1838 / 39 season still remains there and our capital (about £6 millions is thus encumbered) and cannot be used. Distrust and lack of confidence are already manifesting and we cannot wait long for a satisfactory resolution. Add to all this the uncertainty over restitution of our surrendered opium and you will see how close to ruin we are.

We urge you to use all your influence with the British government to ensure a speedy settlement of the dispute. This is a crisis that imperatively demands the use of British power.

Sgd J Skinner, Chairman,

Vol 13 No 16 – 21st April 1840

Open Letter to all Associations, Chambers of Commerce, Holders of the Company’s shares, Merchants, Ship-owners and others in Britain interested in the East India and China trade:

“Countrymen, events in China necessitate the vigorous interference of Britain. We attach a printed compendium of the details.

Briefly, as the result of a fight at Hong Kong, a Chinese was killed and the British were expelled from Macau. The British schooner Black Joke was attacked by Chinese and its crew massacred. A British passenger was mutilated. Hostilities had previously occurred between the boats of H M warships and Chinese warjunks and lives were lost. 58 ships which, with their cargoes, are worth totally £3 millions, were attacked with fire rafts at Hong Kong.

A peaceful resolution is not in prospect. Hostilities have already commenced; the British are on the defensive and our reputation is at its lowest ebb. Elliot has concluded that trade is impossible until terms of equality are available and he has prevented trade. He has requested the British and Indian governments to exclude British ships coming to their ports with China cargoes unless the goods have his seal.

The British government must delay no more and we solicit your earnest exertions in influencing it to meet this crisis decisively. The present situation reduces the revenue of India and Britain and will soon embarrass both governments more than they seem to be aware of.

We will elucidate the situation in Bombay. We assume the situation in Bengal is more or less the same:


1st half 1838/39

1st half 1839/40

China  sales

Rs 663,383

Rs 102,408

Silver imports

Rs 5,016,484.

Rs 451,680

B’bay Duty

Rs 23,218

Rs 3,584

Duty on exports to China

1st half 1838/39

1st half 1839/40

Rs 1,068,000 opium

Rs 285,000 opium

Rs 385,000 cotton

Rs 200,000 cotton

Government revenue has dropped by two thirds and the stoppage of receipts must continue for at least another six months. The lack of silver will be particularly embarrassing. The next cotton crop will likely have only England to export to. Those exports to UK are duty-free so the government will lose its cotton revenue from shipments to China. Our most conservative estimate of the Bombay Presidency’s loss in reduced annual import and export duty and opium passes is 2½ million Rupees or about £250,000.

In Bengal China imports were Rs 769,603 goods and Rs 7,654,000 silver. The exports are Rs 2,180,000 cotton and Rs 12,500,000 opium. Although the Bengal government has set an upset price of Rs 400 per chest at opium auctions, the income will be only Rs 2 millions instead of the Rs 10 millions of previous years, supposing they can sell all that they have to offer.

Considering solely these direct effects on India and ignoring the indirect effects on Britain, we think the Indian government should be more concerned.

India trade with China provides the Company Directors with £500,000 towards the ‘home charges’ which is used to pay pensions and dividends in England. The terms of these remittances via China are distinctly more favourable to the Company than by any alternative route. This source of remittance is now closed. No doubt the Company’s Court of Directors will be pressuring the British government to take strong measures.

Finally, if the present apathy continues, the Chancellor of the Exchequer will find his revenue so reduced he will be forced to obtain cabinet support to restore commerce. The British revenue on tea during the last few years has been £3½ millions p a. This year it will be less than £1 million.

Connected with the above is the need to have the British government settle the opium compensation. The Chinese merchants are said to have suggested 5 – 6 lbs (chests?) of tea as compensation for each chest of opium surrendered. This demonstrates they knew it was valuable and had to be paid for. It suggests they were aware of the injustice they were doing.

The opium trade provides an immense revenue to Bengal and Bombay and through them to Britain. Opium alone has turned the balance of China trade in Britain’s favour and provides a stream of silver to India in return which enables us to buy more British goods.

Count Bjornstjerna’s study of British India calculates that Britain receives a surplus of £6½ millions each year from its East Indian interests largely through the simple mechanism of sending Indian opium to China and buying tea for England which covers all the exchange.37

The Indian government is well aware of the value of opium. It has constantly encouraged the trade. It grows the crop for itself and prevents growers from selling to others. It controls its carriage by transit passes. It employs doctors to verify its quality. It made a treaty with France whereby it supplies that country with 300 chests a year in return for French abstention from competition.38

1 – 1½ years ago when speculators lost money, the Bengal government allowed a Rs 200 per chest rebate off the agreed sale price, costing the government Rs 3 millions. And, after all that has gone on, the Bengal government is now advertising a new sale at Rs 400 per chest upset price. The Court of Directors has repeatedly directed the Bengal government to study the tastes of the Chinese. All these directions were routinely seen and approved by H M’s Board of Control in London and were accordingly sanctioned by H M Government.

When the renewal of the Company’s charter was aired in parliament, the opium trade was openly discussed. On 13th June 1833 James Buckingham (MP for Sheffield) told parliament opium was smuggled into China against the law. On 12th July Lord Glenelg (Charles Grant) told parliament the opium monopoly was under serious consideration but on 22nd July he told the Commons that the Indian monopolies produced £2½ millions a year.

We have been surprised that those opium critics in England are not critics of gin. The British government has only recalled its morality after being confronted with a large claim for opium compensation. Morality does not seem to be a factor in the everyday business of government. If we agree that the trade is objectionable and it is expedient to suppress it, still there should be justice for those engaged in it. This principle was conceded in the Slave Emancipation Act and we think it should be used again – indemnify those who surrender opium then suppress the trade.

If the government repudiates Elliot’s engagements on the grounds of his alleged incompetence or for exceeding his powers, the opium trade will be ruined and a serious financial crisis will follow at Calcutta and Bombay. Opium is so inextricably bound to the rest of Indian commerce that the effects of its cessation will have profound implications. The authority of Indian government officers will be undermined by the realisation that their acts are unauthorised until ratified by London.

There are 58 British ships stuck in China, 28 of them from Bombay alone and worth (ships and cargoes) some £5 millions. When such a large sum is removed from the money-go-round it effects us all. This is a repeat of the fearful commercial shock to Calcutta in 1832 which was not long in reaching London.

Sgd ‘A Voice from the East’

Editor – the object of these appeals is to recover the China-trade. We disagree with Curling Young’s idea of seizing an island. That would be an abandonment of our lofty position. These modern days we require the full consent and protection of China in our mutual trade. They will then be willing to allow us the water and provisions we need.

The question of indemnification should not be difficult. When we were surrendering the opium at Chuen Pi some of Lin’s officials asked if 1 picul or 1½ piculs of raw silk was a reasonable barter for each opium chest. The real difficulty is recovering the general trade by abandoning the opium trade. That business has been very profitable to Britain. Every Customs Officer knows it is impossible to put down a trade that yields an average 30% profit.

Once China has indemnified the opium seizure and the consequential losses, apologised for its action and paid-off the Hong debts, there will still be the matter of English trade being stopped until we agree to obey Chinese law. China should legalise opium and perhaps make it a government monopoly along with salt. The profits would be reduced but the income would be more certain. We might agree to incrementally reduce the quantity that we bring each year. In this way the Indian government would have time to extricate itself from its present dependence on opium revenue and stimulate other production in substitution.

But, more likely, after the Chinese government sees the wealth it can derive from opium, it will wish to continue the business under some overall limit of supply, like the Spanish tobacco monopoly at Manila. It would be a humbling change of policy for China but it would restore the trade and represent a great improvement on the present situation of severed relations.

Vol 13 No 16 – 21st April 1840

Notice of the British Commissioner Elliot at Macau, 18th April:

After 26th April, British warships will move to Kap Soy Mun (Ma Wan Island). Merchant ships are requested to anchor between HMS Druid and Lantau Island.

Vol 13 No 16 – 21st April 1840

Advertisement, Macau 15th & 21st April – John Smith’s Albion Hotel, the first house at the North East of the Praia Grande, contains a grocery where the following provisions are for sale (long list of sealed and potted foods, dried foods, sauces, pickles, jams, tobacco, candles, cosmetics, wines and sundries. Also some lacquerware and a variety of teas in 10 catty boxes).

Vol 13 No 16 – 21st April 1840

Advertisement – For passages between Macau and the British fleet, apply to Charles Markwick at Cheung Sha Wan or John Smith at Macau. The ferries on this route are the schooners Alpha, Union, Sylph and Black Joke and the cutters St George and Greyhound.

Vol 13 No 17 – 28th April 1840

Notice, 22nd April – A dividend on the debts of Hong Tai and King Qua will be paid by the Hong merchants on or about 5th May.

Sgd Russell & Co.

Vol 13 No 17 – 28th April 1840

The Kien Lung Emperor’s successor was his third son Ka Hing. The older two boys died young. The Catholic missionary Serra left his opinion of the Ka Hing Emperor. He would conclude the early morning audience and business of state expeditiously and often spent the rest of the day drinking with entertainers. He regularly attended the harem. It was widely remarked about the palace that his two younger sons looked nothing like him although they were clearly brothers to each other. He even took his comedians with him on visits to the temples of Heaven and Earth for sacrifice.

The censor Sung Keun, who was so pleasant to Macartney, criticised the Ka Hing Emperor for profligacy. After being threatened with various unpleasant forms of execution, he was ordered to retire but finally the Emperor was persuaded to recognise Sung’s rectitude and He sent him to the Black Dragon (Amur) River Province as Governor.

The Ka Hing Emperor never understood state affairs and sought to delegate many Imperial powers, apparently so he would have more time for pleasure. His brothers recognised his inability to reach a view and decided to depose him before he turned on them. They plotted his assassination and nearly succeeded. Ka Hing was appalled by this attempt and the revelation of how few supporters he had. He lost faith with humanity and thereafter trusted no-one. He kept up attendance at the morning council and gave audiences but increasingly sought refuge in wine and women. With this absence of direction, in which the state merely responded to passing events, rebellion took root. Ka Hing adopted a means of controlling rebels by bribery, by sowing dissension amongst them and then destroying them one by one. He had no fixed standard of propriety – he was sometimes excessively forgiving of one criminal and cruelly oppressive of another. Complaints against him became louder and he was obliged to publicly promise repentance and reform but his passions were stronger than his reason and he soon relapsed. He was never equal to the control of piracy which spread along the entire coast and rivers.

A second insurrection occurred in the palace in which ministers themselves opened the doors for the assassins. It was on this occasion that To Kwong distinguished himself in routing some rioters and ensured his own succession. He is the most ineffectual of the Ching emperors to yet hold power.39

Vol 13 No 17 – 28th April 1840

Letter to the Bombay Times, 10th December 1839 – The surrender of British opium at Canton has been widely discussed but no-one has mentioned the opium surrendered by the Americans to Elliot for the use of the British government.

It seems very likely that U S claims for compensation must fail.

Sgd ‘Doctor of Law’

Vol 13 No 17 – 28th April 1840

The Singapore Free Press of 26th March 1840, in considering Russia’s expansion in Central Asia, has gravely informed the world that the Tsar might attempt the conquest of China. In fact the article from which this view derives concerned Khiva which must have appeared in the Free Press’ poorly printed copy as China. Actually Russia is China’s only ally. The Great Ching emperor has thousands of pirates marauding undisturbed all along the coast from Cochin China to Liaotung and the vassals (Burma, Siam, Cochin China, Korea and Loo Choo) are soon quite likely to repudiate his sovereignty. Japanese pirates may return to the east coast and blockade his rivers. Foreign flags may wave over his river forts and the Grand Canal may be cut and taken from him.

The events of recent years seem to predict the end of the Ching dynasty. That this dynasty ever commenced was almost accidental. A symptom of Ching weakness is its supreme dread of popular associations like the Triad Societies.

Vol 13 No 17 – 28th April 1840

The London Gazette of 11th December (recited in the Englishman, 25th February 1840) has a list of distinctions earned mainly in the recent Afghan War. Colonel Henry Pottinger gets a baronetcy but we are particularly glad to see the hero of Herat, Lieutenant Eldred Pottinger of the Bombay Artillery, get a CB.

The Oriental Herald gives some biography on him. He comes from an ancient family whose seat was at the Hoo, Hertfordshire for many centuries. His ancestor Thomas Pottinger removed to Ireland in the early 17th century where he and his brother Edward had been granted a large tract of land. This has since been disposed of. One of Eldred’s ancestors was a knight in the army of Henry II at the conquest of Ireland in 1182. Another courted the daughter of the Earl of Warwick. Yet another was the godson of Sir Walter Raleigh but was banished from England for fighting two duels in one day. He established a branch of the family in Europe.

Lt Eldred Pottinger is the eldest son of the present representative of the Irish branch of the family. His mother is the daughter of Mr K Moore of Elsinore, another ancient Irish family. Eldred was born in August 1811.

Vol 13 No 17 – 28th April 1840

The Observer of 22nd December reports that HMS Blenheim (72) and the frigates Blonde, Andromache and Pique are refitting at Portsmouth, preparatory to joining the East India squadron. The steamer Cyclops is fitting-out at Sheerness. She has 6 x 32 pounder guns and is also destined for the East Indies. One of the Portsmouth ships is reportedly fitted with accommodation for an ambassador. Two more frigates have been ordered to China from South America.

Vol 13 No 17 – 28th April 1840

The Royal Asiatic Society held a meeting on 7th December to consider a paper by E Sully on Indian opium. The author described the improved method of preparation recently adopted in response to rising demand in China. In light of the Chinese government’s opposition to the trade, Sully opined that new markets would be sought and an increased importation into England was in prospect.

Editor – we doubt Chinese consumption will end entirely or that a greater demand will be created in England. We do hope the Company will abandon its monopoly and permit everyone to enter the business. We expect the risks that the private cultivator will then assume will effectively reduce the area under plantation.

Vol 13 No 17 – 28th April 1840

Tea prices continue to increase. At the Liverpool tea auctions in December good congous were up to 2/8d – 2/9d per lb and twankey was 2/10d before settling back to 2/5d – 2/6d and 2/7d respectively.

Vol 13 No 17 – 28th April 1840

The new Assam Company has shipped 95 chests of tea per Margaret which has arrived in London for examination. It will be interesting to see if the favourable comments of Bengal are recited in London. We draw attention to the petition of the Company, below, which suggests Indian tea will become an important staple of Indian agriculture. The Company is requesting a remission of British tea duty on the Assam product to help develop its market. The Assam Company proposes to request the same favour of parliament by petition.

Given our need to be independent of China, we suppose these applications will be favourably considered. The Bengal Hurkaru reports that several companies have been formed in England to cultivate tea in Assam but it is wrong. Several attempts to establish businesses have been made but all have so far failed. They simply do not have the capital.

Vol 13 No 17 – 28th April 1840

The Kwongchow foo proclaims the definitive anti-opium law was enacted 2 years ago but still there are smokers. Only a few have been punished and the great majority continue in their former ways. The reason is these cunning smokers are indulging their habit in private and the magistrates are unsure where to find them. If consumption continues, the opium smugglers will be able to make sales. If we do not act against secret opium smoking the problem will not be ended. The grace period commenced on 6th July 1839 and ends in January 1841. Then the dreadful punishments required at law will commence. I wish to help you avoid the grief that is coming. … next page illegible…

Editor – Prisons are called Hells by Chinese. Reportedly, fully half of the opium smokers who were incarcerated, have died.

Vol 13 No 18 – 5th May 1840

For Sale – Horsburgh’s charts of the east coast of China, $6 each set. Apply W Sprott Boyd.

For Sale – A Narrative of the Development of the Opium Question, 1836 to 1839 by John Slade, with all the Edicts, laws and other documents, including memorials from Indian and Chinese chambers. $2

Vol 13 No 18 – 5th May 1840

The General Kyd sailed today for London taking Mrs Turner (widow of the late proprietor of Turner & Co), her two boys and the family maid home.

Vol 13 No 18 – 5th May 1840

Memorial of the American vice-Consul Delano and other merchants to Viceroy Lin dated 25th April 1840 at Canton:

It is the custom of Western countries to give notice before blockading the ports of another. We have heard news from both England and America that a blockade of Canton is proposed to commence on 1st June. America is a neutral nation in this rumoured dispute.

We have very little time to bring our ships into a blockaded port. We are honourable traders. We ask that we may come direct to Whampoa for discharge. If our ships continue to be detained 10-30 days outside, waiting for Port Entry approval before they can commence discharge, we fear they will be trapped once the English warships arrive and we will lose money.

Sgd Augustine Heard & Co, Olyphant & Co, Russell & Co, Gideon Nye, A A Ritchie, S W Luis, James Ryan, Henry Fessenden, Henry W Hubbell, John Shillaber and Isaac M Bell.

Viceroy’s reply, 27th April:

The Emperor has cut off only the English from trade but there has been some underhand business and it is difficult to be sure that other nations do not carry on British trade by trans-shipment. This means all ships must be searched before they enter the river.

It is an egregious mistake to suppose the English will blockade Canton. Canton belongs to the Emperor. What right can England claim to blockade American ships – are you vassals of England? Why do you listen to these people? If you wish to oblige the English and cease your trade that is your concern. You speak of losing money but since the English were expelled your own trade has increased many times. What are the losses you fear? Your petition is returned.

Editorial – So far as we know Elliot has received no instructions from London and the American Consul likewise appears to be without instructions from the wording of this memorial. This information must come from rumour or newspaper speculation. Anyway the Americans have been discourteous in not telling us first. The Americans tell China they are a neutral country and wish to remain so. They do not say that they are not involved in opium trade. Neither do they admit that some of the opium Elliot surrendered was theirs (we wish he had not done that for them but he was besieged by Americans until he agreed to take all the British-owned opium off their hands. Afterwards they cut all public connections with us).

Have the Americans forgotten that they were also detained in Canton and treated with indignity and threats. How can they now debase themselves with pleas of neutrality? Are the profits from their trans-shipment trade adequate compensation for them? Are they prepared to denounce our supposed intentions to our great enemy? Is this an example of supporting your friends?

The Viceroy not unreasonably asks what losses they have incurred. He has tolerated their illegal trans-shipment trade since last July and that has increased their profits many times. He finds their inference, that China is in some way threatened by the English blockade, in bad taste. He returned their petition because he did not want it in the record. This attempt of the American community to distance itself from us will not win admiration in China. The only honourable thing in the whole affair is the refusal of Wetmore & Co to sign the document.

P.S. We have just heard that a secret letter from Palmerston to the American ambassador in London may have been leaked to the Americans in China. This could be the source of their information. But the idea of a blockade of the river is absurdly insufficient. We should take the Bogue forts and Canton, garrison Amoy and Chusan, interdict the Grand Canal at the Yangtse and command the Peiho. Only decisive measures will convince the Chinese of their weakness and our strength.

Vol 13 No 18 – 5th May 1840

Editorial – We have obtained a copy of the Leeds Mercury which states categorically that the import of opium to China has been stopped. We have to tell that Editor that the opium trade is almost as vibrant as ever. The ‘fast crabs’ are openly employed in daylight and all they wish for is some protection from pirates.

Controlling opium rests with the Indian government not the Chinese government.

English newspapers have recently reported the China trade endlessly. Why are they so interested? In fact for five years there has been little profit in importing British manufactures to China.

Here is the Leeds Mercury article, dated 30th November 1839:

Last Saturday’s Manchester Guardian says ministers will probably send a naval force to Canton to demand reparations for the detention of Elliot. The London papers do not have this news and we hope the Guardian is wrong. We quoted King’s pamphlet ‘The Opium Crisis’ last week to suggest that Elliot was completely in the wrong. We hope the Guardian is too.

Elliot disobeyed the instructions given to all British foreign representatives ‘to take special notice of all the prohibitions so that he may admonish all British subjects against carrying on an illicit commerce.’40 By his acts he virtually identified himself with the opium smugglers; he prepared to defend the opium ships from seizure; he took the principal opium agent Dent into his own house to protect him from the authorities. Having thus dishonoured himself and defied Chinese law he forfeited all expectation of respect and protection.

The opium trade is a persevering outrage on the laws of China perpetrated year after year in defiance of entreaty, warning and menace, a special insult to the special representative of the Emperor sent from Peking to prevent the importation of the poison.

This series of offences is committed by persons residing on sufferance within the dominions of the Emperor. There was no other way of preventing the introduction of opium that would have worked than by seizing the entire opium stock. The smugglers refused to stop and Elliot took Dent into his house to defeat the measures of the Commissioner to take possession of the stock. The temporary arrest of Elliot until Lin’s aims were achieved was fully vindicated in the result. Perhaps ministers are persuaded to use force to resent an act that appears right and just, but we hope it is not so.

There is a chance – the great City firm of Sir Charles Forbes & Co refused to sign the smugglers’ memorial to the Commons.41 But the opium interests in Britain are very wealthy and it behoves the people to be vigilant lest government is influenced to commit the country to an unrighteous, dishonourable and dangerous assault on China.

Vol 13 No 18 – 5th May 1840

Editorial – We fear we are about to have another agent of the Company amongst us. The Governor-General of India is said to be sending a delegation to arrange matters with China and one of the old Company agents is ambitious for a job on it. We hope this is untrue. Anyone bred in the school of monopoly will be unable to settle the terms of free trade. On the contrary they will want to reassert their old monopoly – that is also the hope of the Hong merchants.

We remind the Queen-in-Council of our 1834 memorial to her predecessor and request that no-one associated with the Company be involved in the upcoming negotiations. Such people are known by the Chinese as merchants and have a history of willing submission to insult.

We speak of negotiations but we think the piracy of the Black Joke and the attacks on HMS Hyacinth and Volage require the seizure of Canton and its river before any discussions can be held. Any lesser violence will weaken our cause. It was in Canton that we were imprisoned, threatened and robbed and it is in Canton that we should celebrate our triumph.

Vol 13 No 19 – 12th May 1840

Public Notice of the British Commission, 11th May 1840:

The Macau Governor has complained of British sailors being abandoned at Macau – they disturb the peace. This is a violation of both Portuguese and English law. No British seamen may be discharged without the consent of the port authorities. The Portuguese authorities will in future require evidence of good character and security from a respectable local resident for payment of their debts. Masters of British ships are reminded that it is a misdemeanour punishable by fine and imprisonment to wilfully leave behind a crew-member. Masters of country ships should review the regulations of their port of registry. The Portuguese colonial government has the legal power to fine and imprison foreign shipmasters for approving the abandonment of seamen.

British nationals contemplating the discharge of crew-members at Macau are advised to interview the Governor’s secretary and explain themselves. If approved, they will receive a written sanction.

All masters of British ships will remind their crews that it is an offence at Macau to go ashore without a leave ticket. The sailors risk arrest and deportation at their own expense. The Chief Superintendent’s duty is to fully assist the Macau authorities in this matter.

Vol 13 No 19 – 12th May 1840

Revised Macau Harbour Regulations:

  • Every ship will be visited by the Master Attendant to check ships’ papers and manifests and collect port dues.
  • Only in an emergency may the ship’s captain or any of his officers leave the ship before the Master Attendant’s visit.
  • No crewman may come ashore without a note from the Captain showing his name and ship’s name. Penalty – imprisonment for the duration of his ship’s stay, fine of $5 – 10 and payment of jailer’s charges.
  • No crewman may land with an offensive weapon.
  • No crewman may remain ashore after 8 pm. Penalty – 3 days imprisonment, fine $5 – 10 and other penalties if badly behaved.

NB – All schooners and other small craft are not to land people without permission of the government. Masters whose crew contravene this requirement will themselves be liable to 8 days imprisonment, fines of $10 – 20 and costs of maintenance whilst imprisoned.

Vol 13 No 19 – 12th May 1840

The Ophthalmic Hospital’s report for 1939 (its 10th report) contains an item on Commissioner Lin’s hernia. The foreign doctors did not examine him but corresponded. He first applied in July 1839 for translations of some parts of Vattel’s Law of Nations relative to war and its accompanying hostile measures like blockades and embargoes. An outline of western views on opium was also requested and ideas for treatment of addiction. He was told opium is classed as a poison in the west but, like arsenic, is a valuable medicine. The commissioner was apprised of details of opium suicides to illustrate its physiological effects. He was then told that each case of addiction must be treated separately but as a general rule Western practise was to reduce the dose gradually. The Commissioner was not satisfied with this. He supposed we had a specific that produced a complete cure. He asked for samples of substances that could substitute for opium.

Then he sent the Nam Hoi heen and How Qua to request medicine to cure his hernia. An explanation of his condition with diagrams was returned together with advice that the truss had to be shaped by a surgeon to give full benefit. This inferred an examination which he was reluctant to undergo and in any event he was then called to the Bogue to destroy opium. Then a gentleman from Peking, who himself had a hernia that was relieved by a truss, came and asked for a spare to give the Commissioner. This man shrewdly said he had worn a truss for so long that he had sufficient understanding to ensure he could appropriately adapt one for the Commissioner. The doctor declined. Nothing occurred for a couple of months then two young men from Commissioner Lin’s suite attended the hospital. One had a hernia and the other a skin infection on the face. A truss was fashioned for the former which he found comfortable and he then volunteered that he had a friend who also had a hernia ‘the size of his head’ but he was prevented from seeking for attention by continual public engagements. The Hospital continued to maintain a fitting was essential and declined to provide the man with a spare truss.

Next morning the two young men returned with the Peking translator of Western languages and the brother of the ‘unknown’ man with a hernia. This group reluctantly revealed that they represented the Commissioner and the brother, who was about the same size, offered himself as a model for fitting the truss. He proposed that the doctor give him numerous trusses and he would retain only the best-fitting one. The doctor then felt it was vain to insist on a fitting and supplied six trusses suitable for the apparent type of hernia involved. It also appeared that the commissioner is mildly asthmatic and some medication for that condition was also sent. Since then no trusses have been returned. It was later reported that the Commissioner’s chosen truss was tolerably effective except when he coughed. The doctor reports that many of the commissioner’s suite have since attended the hospital.

Editor – we wish the doctor had not categorised opium as a poison. This will incite the commissioner to believe he is right about the stuff. Sydenham called opium the most excellent cordial in nature. Wilberforce, Hall and other orators and preachers found it to be so.42

Vol 13 No 20 – 19th May 1840

We reported the burning of the Bilbaino in September, the inability of her consignee to get the ship released and the more recent arrival of a Spanish envoy from Manila to investigate the affair. The Chief Mate and another officer have been imprisoned since the fire and were required to confess that the ship was English and used for smuggling, whereupon they would be released. On one occasion the mate was threatened with a drawn sword and on another the two were separated and each was told the other had confessed, been rewarded and released.

When the investigation did not progress, their chains were removed and they were taken to Canton and detained six months in a temple near the Viceroy’s yamen. After Captain Halcon, the Manila reporter, arrived, the American Consul sent a petition notifying Halcon’s purpose to the Kwangtung government and after some delay the two men were released. When the Chief Mate Gimenes arrived at Macau he was found to have become mentally unstable. He jumped out of a window and hurt himself. He has since improved and been sent to recuperate in Manila. Capt Halcon remains in China.

Vol 13 No 20 – 19th May 1840

Lord Auckland has returned to India and taken up the duties of Governor-General effective February 1840. Forty great and good Englishmen turned out at Calcutta to welcome him. A deputation of Hindu and Muslim men, including many representatives of the Tagore family, presented an address of loyalty signed by 4,000 Calcutta residents.

“The victory in Afghanistan had evinced the power and resources of British India” he said. Auckland thanked the deputation for their approval of the ‘momentous measures of external policy’ which he felt bound to pursue.

Vol 13 No 20 – 19th May 1840

We have received copies of the Singapore Free Press of 2nd and 9th April. It is reported the Allalecie left Calcutta 3rd March for Ceylon where she will discharge coal and embark troops.

Vol 13 No 20 – 19th May 1840

Four sweepstake races have been fixed in Macau for 13th and 15th May. Racing will commence at 5:30 pm. Several private races are scheduled for Saturday evening as well. Sgd Sam Day, Secretary.

Vol 13 No 20 – 19th May 1840

Before the arrival of Commissioner Lin, the free trade had been in existence for over four years but had not developed as quickly as we had expected. What is required is an agreement between the two countries for the regulation of trade. Under free trade, business has discouraged the Hong merchants as much as the foreigners. All except three of the Hongs are now effectively bankrupt. The Company used to support insolvent Hongs by apportioning shares of its business to each of them. This at least promoted some independence between the Hongs.

Now the foreign trade of China is almost exclusively done by How Qua and the two other liquid Hongs. These three stay in the background and buy our imports through the poorer Hongs. We cannot avoid this deception while the Hong system continues. We require the British government to interfere in order to promote and protect British and Indian trade. Many think our trade is stopped because we smuggle opium. That is untrue. It is our objection to the commercial policies of China that has stopped trade. Our European readers should know that general conditions of trade have deteriorated so quickly that it can scarcely be conducted profitably. One has only to examine the state of affairs prior to the opium confiscation to see that this is correct. It could not have been sustained much longer. Under free trade, change was becoming increasingly necessary. From this standpoint the actions of Commissioner Lin are fortuitous – we now have a cause to press for change.

Vol 13 No 20 – 19th May 1840

A new regulation was issued in Macau on 14th May 1840. Viceroy Lin requires all shipping to anchor at Macau and deliver the ship’s papers and cargo manifests to the sub-Prefect for examination. Once the papers have been examined a decision will be made whether to trade with that ship or not.

Vol 13 No 20 – 19th May 1840

The Macau races went off very well last Wednesday and Friday. The Fukienese soldiers garrisoning the barrier watched with interest but did not intervene. There were seven ponies in the first race and 4-5 in each of the other three. (All the owners appear from their names to be English or perhaps American.)

Vol 13 No 21 – 26th May 1840

Notice – a large and spacious house in Praia de Manduco, previously occupied by Turner & Co, is available to let. Apply to Filippe Jose de Freitas at the address.

Vol 13 No 21 – 26th May 1840

The 24th May was the 1st anniversary of the banishment of 16 foreigners from China and James Matheson, one of the banishees, hosted a celebration in Macau to commemorate the event and honour Capt Elliot, who led the expelled men out of Canton together with many of his fellow merchants. Capt Warren and officers of HMS Hyacinth and HMS Druid were also present.

There were several toasts and speeches by both Matheson and Elliot but we will not allude to them here. After adjourning to the drawing room, many people commenced dancing. The party ended before midnight.

A week earlier Heerjeebhoy Rustomjee gave a splendid quadrille party for the Portuguese governor and many Portuguese, American and British people. Dancing started after 9 pm and continued to midnight when we sat for supper. Numerous toasts were proposed. Then dancing recommenced until 5 am.

Vol 13 No 21 – 26th May 1840

The Americans have sent a letter to the Canton Press objecting to our characterisation of their petition to Viceroy Lin concerning the blockade. From this we learned for the first time that they memorialised their Congress last year. Why was it not published? Apparently Mr W Delano did not sign the petition to Lin although his firm did. We apologise for the inadvertent mistake.

Vol 13 No 22 – 2nd June 1840

The small schooner Hellas (Jauncey) was attacked on 22nd May by 8 junks and 3 rowing boats. Our Chinese sources say the battle continued for four hours and the Chinese lost some 200 men, many by drowning. Here is the report recited from the Canton Press:

The Hellas was becalmed north of Namoa on the Fukien coast on 22nd May when 8 junks and 3 large rowing boats, all apparently coastal trading boats, approached. When they came closer than usual Jauncey ordered to clear for action. This instruction was still in hand when the junks came up astern and commenced musket fire. The Hellas was entangled amongst fishing stakes. She could not bring her guns to bear. As a result anyone who exposed himself on deck was shot. The junk crews also threw hand grenades which fired the Hellas several times but each new blaze was successfully extinguished.

At length a slight breeze allowed the Hellas to turn and considerable damage was done to the junks. A great number of pirates were believed to have been wounded and they sheered off. The Hellas has a complement of 50 crew of whom all 15 Europeans and 10 of the Lascars were injured. Jauncey had several leg wounds and was shot in the chin and eye. He is recovering. The Tindal, a Malay, actually boarded one of the junks and incapacitated a pirate before jumping back uninjured. Had the pirate ships been equipped with cannon they would certainly have captured the schooner.

Vol 13 No 22 – 2nd June 1840

The 1830 Select Committee on China trade was told that Chinese regulation of trade is intended to ensure it is always under their control. This aim would have been better achieved if the government had pursued a plan, suggested in 1814 in an Imperial edict, for giving 2-3 senior Hong merchants the absolute power to fix prices. The Company defeated that proposal by stopping trade.

China restricts foreign trade to Canton, the worst place in the country to bring black tea.43 It suggests the Chinese do not want to facilitate trade. The few Hong merchants who monopolise business under the control of local officials have provided a means of milking the trade for as much as they can get. This monopoly system has constantly produced debts to foreigners since 1774 when the Hongs and shopkeepers jointly owed over $4 million. That was why Captain Panton came here from Madras in HMS Seahorse.

The recent spate of failures started with Con See Qua in 1823. After incessant complaint we were able to get repayment offered over five years. We protested and petitioned at the City Gate where we held a sit-in. The following midnight How Qua submitted to our insistence on payment in 3 years. Pak Qua was bankrupted in 1825, Poon Ke Qua in 1827, Man Hop in 1828, Chun Qua in 1829. All settlements took a year or more to arrange and several years to pay. Since then Hing Tai and King Qua failed in 1837.

By early 1839 even the opium trade was stagnant. This system of constantly giving credit followed a year or two later by failure is unsuitable for our valuable trade. When we petitioned Palmerston in March 1838 we asked both for government’s powerful interposition to get repayment and for a better system. We sent copies of that petition to all the British Chambers and to the East India and China Association in London asking for support. All this should adequately reveal that the foreign trade here was slipping into a crisis quite independent of the opium trade. But the British people have since been misled into thinking it is the opium trade that has solely caused the present problem.

In the 1838 paper ‘The Chinese Security Merchants and their Debts’ a leading local merchant, Dent, recalled the Select Committee of 1780 had concluded that the Hongs had then been ruined by the ready availability of money which they spent on flamboyant living and in presents to the officials. Shy King Qua in 1796 and Chun Qua in 1829 had both appropriated large amounts from their businesses for their personal use. The writer of the 1838 paper (L. Dent) concluded that for fifty years the Chinese had excluded us from the protection of their law and instead subjected us to the rule of Security Merchants who police the foreigners and their trade. They are nominally appointed but not paid by the Emperor. These merchants get a monopoly on all the staples of foreign trade and, to put a better face on it, the government guarantees payment of their debts.

Opium comprises about 60% of all British imports to China. It has enabled the free traders to endure the burdens of the legitimate trade.

All this reveals that a clash was bound to occur sooner or later. We repeat that the high-handed acts of Commissioner Lin have given us cause to bring-on this clash.

Vol 13 No 22 – 2nd June 1840

Viceroy Lin’s Edict of 21st May 1840 to the Hong merchants on the New Bond, copied from the Canton Press of 30th May:

“Laden ships should not wait in the outer waters but should return to their homes. The Emperor has sent repeated Edicts ordering the peoples of other countries to not supply tea, etc., to the English whose trade has been cut off perpetually. The Americans have submitted to the new regulations and are making royal profits.

“Previously, when the English fleet was anchored at Cheung Sha Wan the ships of other nations also went there. Now the English fleet has shifted to Mo Tau and the other nations’ ships also go there. They are making connections and taking cargo for the English. Otherwise why would they follow them?44

“Every foreign ship coming to Canton has a resident consignee. We must require this man to give a bond that on arrival his ship brings no goods for the English. Then she may open her holds and trade. Again when she has loaded her export cargo the consignee must give another bond that after departure the ship will not anchor near the English fleet outside.

“The Kwongchow foo will command the Hong merchants to enjoin this on the foreigners. When the foreign ship arrives they will take a bond from the consignee that the ship brings no goods for the English and when she departs they should obtain and submit the second bond to the Hoppo.”

Vol 13 No 22 – 2nd June 1840

Tang, the assistant Heung Shan heen, has issued an Edict on 14th May 1840:

The Emperor is saddened and wishes to protect foolish people who use opium. He understands it is difficult to put away the habit and has allowed 18 months grace. His instruction was received at Canton on 6th July 1839 and already one year has passed.45

This is to advise all you soldiers and people to protect your lives and give up smoking opium. Those people who have stopped smoking are not constantly sick. Stopping smoking does not kill you. It is better than being tortured to death in prison. You must distinguish which is the light penalty and which is the heavy one.

This is to remind you that once the grace period is ended, if you have not reformed, you will plead for continued existence in vain. There is only one way to delay your death.

Vol 13 No 22 – 2nd June 1840

London tea auction report 2nd March 1840:

Fukien Bohea

Middling congous


2/5d – 2/6d per lb.

2/7d – 2/8d per lb.

2/8½d – 3/4d per lb

Vol 13 No 22 – 2nd June 1840

The London Times of 4th March reports that a public dinner is to be given for Wm Jardine on 10th March. Forty stewards are listed as having applied at 4th March. The list remains open until 7th March. The price per head is 3 guineas. At that price it will be quite a ‘do’. Here is the report:

The friends of Wm Jardine mark their esteem for him on his return to Britain by entertaining him to a public dinner at the London Tavern, Bishopsgate Street at 6 pm 10th March. Tickets at 3 guineas each are available from Mr Hardy at the Jerusalem Coffee Shop or from any one of the stewards.

The committee is comprised of:

Captain John Hine of the India Company fleet,

James Wilkinshaw

D Cannan


vice Chairman


Signed – Capts Richard Aplin, P Cameron, E M Daniell, John Fraser, Alex Grant, Hyde, John Innes, G Longley, R Lungley, C Mangles, Alex Nairne, Edward Routh, T Smith, Wm S Stockley, Templeton, John Thacker (16 captains) and

M/s George Armstrong, Samuel Ball, James Blair, Niven Carr, Charles S Compton, W T Copeland MP for Stoke-on-Trent, W C Drysdale, James Gardiner, J S Gledstanes, Archibald Hastie MP for Paisley, Thomas Heath, H Laver, John Lennox, Wm Lyall, John MacVicar, James McKenzie, Forbes McNeal, John Pirie, Wm Price, Christopher Read, John Rigge, Joseph Somes, Thomas Weeding, Henry Wise.

Vol 13 No 23 – 9th June 1840

The Board of Trade has ordained on 17th February, after discussion with the Chairman of Lloyd’s, that tea trans-shipped on the China coast for the English market is considered China tea and is admissible to England.

The law requires that tea imported to England directly from China must be brought by British or Chinese ships. But China tea re-exported from any foreign settlement east of the Cape, say Batavia or Manila, can also be brought on to England in British ships. Foreign ships may not ship China teas to British possessions within the Company’s jurisdiction.

Vol 13 No 23 – 9th June 1840

An association has been formed in London to suppress the traffic in opium from India to China. It says this trade is 1/ discreditable to Britain, 2/ prejudicial to British trade, 3/ injures the protestant missionary cause and 4/ creates vice and misery amongst the Chinese.

The subscribers met on 13th February and agreed that the opium trade to China endangered the legitimate trade. The society is formed to discourage poppy farming in India and prevent opium imports to China. A committee of famous people is formed to organise public meetings throughout Britain, petition the Houses of Lords and Commons, urge individual MP’s to elicit a resolution against the trade and support it. The motion will be made in parliament by Lord Sandon and Sir George Staunton.

Vol 13 No 23 – 9th June 1840

The US Government has indicated that American merchants at Canton are willing to collaborate with British merchants in obtaining a treaty of commerce with China whereby the trade of both countries can be placed on a solid foundation. The American merchants have memorialised Congress for aid to the British government in its forthcoming attempt to settle the terms of trade at Canton. We have a letter from Washington dated 24th January confirming the above information. It says American merchants want:

  • Permission for foreign envoys to reside near the court at Peking on the same terms and privileges granted to other courts (read Russian) whereby the Imperial court can be called to intercede in problems that may arise at a provincial level.
  • A fixed and immutable tariff of import and export duties
  • A system of bonded warehouses so goods may be trans-shipped or re-exported without entering China.
  • Opening of ports other than Canton
  • Compensation for losses from the stoppage of trade – both trade losses and losses from detention of shipping – with a guarantee of no further arbitrary stoppages and security for exit from Chinese ports of all parties not guilty of criminal or civil offences.
  • Until the Chinese penal code is known, agreement that punishments of foreigners for offences in China will equate with the tariff in their own countries and that no punishment will be given until guilt has been established.

The American merchants aver Commissioner Lin was unjust and, if the British cannot get satisfaction for their demand, they request that the chief ports and rivers of China should be blockaded and a joint French, English and American naval force should patrol the Chinese coast to obtain without bloodshed the requisite treaties and acknowledgements.

They say if the American government decides not to interpose itself then at least a national Agent should be sent to live at Canton with sufficient naval force to get his voice heard and protect American traders from lawless foreigners or foreign navies and prevent any blockade interfering with their trade. He should also ensure American participation in any benefits that China grants to others.

Vol 13 No 23 – 9th June 1840

A petition from the India Company was presented to the House of Commons on 11th February and the House of Lords on 14th February 1840. The Times says the petition requests that the usual commercial rights granted to British colonies be extended to British India and the Indian states in alliance with the Company. Everyone agrees uniformity is desirable. Indian is capable of providing us with such an abundance of cotton as to make us independent of American supply. The new Assam tea farms might soon supplant Chinese tea.

The Company says British India contributes greatly to British wealth and power. They ask that the impediment to her development of agriculture and manufacturing be removed by admitting Indian goods to Britain on the same terms as colonial produce. They also ask for a wider interpretation of ‘British possessions’ so as to permit Indian allies in Asia to benefit from their connection with the Company. They request for amendment of the duty on sugar, tea, spirits and tobacco. They say Indian goods are exported to some British colonies on worse terms than foreign goods. They also complain the effect of the Navigation laws on Indian shipping by protecting Asiatic seamen.

Vol 13 No 22 – 9th June 1840

Captain Lord John Spencer Churchill, senior British naval officer in China, died on his ship after an attack of dysentery and fever on 3rd June. His Lordship has become very popular amongst the merchant navy officers at Kap Soy Mun (Ma Wan Island). He was buried in the British cemetery at Macau on 5th June. The funeral procession consisted of the Portuguese governor, Captains Elliot, Smith and Warren, several other officers of the British squadron and a detachment of sailors and marines. Nearly all the foreign residents of Macau and many of the Portuguese inhabitants also attended.

Elliot read the service impressively and a Portuguese army unit fired three volleys over the grave after interment. He was 44 years old and the fourth son of the present Duke of Marlborough.

Vol 13 No 22 – 9th June 1840

Another attempt has been made to fire the British fleet, this time at Kap Soy Mun. Our correspondent says that at 2 am on Tuesday morning a disturbance was heard amongst the fleet of small Chinese boats inshore when some government boats got in amongst them. The officials attacked the cutter Devil and wounded some Lascars. Then lights were seen coming down the passage and the Danish King fired a warning gun, the signal required by the British naval authorities in the case of fire.

Almost instantly some fifteen fire rafts were amongst us and they looked very beautiful. The wind and tide were bringing them down on the fleet. As they approached they exploded like the firework which we call ‘flower pot’. Whilst beautiful it was alarming and most ships slipped their cables and moved out of reach. It was a dark night with little wind and there was absolute confusion with ships running into each other. Later boats were deployed to tow the rafts clear of the fleet. The rafts were chained in pairs and it was found a total of eighteen had been used. They turned out to be very old unseaworthy fishing and cargo junks. The unburned residue will supply our fleet with firewood for a month. We suppose Viceroy Lin is responsible although why he should do it when he is conniving at the trans-shipment trade is unclear. At daybreak we discovered the cutter Devil had been abandoned by her crew. We do not know what has become of them yet.

We have heard an anecdote concerning one of the officers of the Mavis. Two Chinese brokers attended his ship at Ma Wan for shopping and were subsequently arrested by Customs officers when they returned ashore. The ship’s officer saw the event and led a party of Malays after them. He chased the officials, freed the two prisoners, who were being taken over the Lantau hills to their probable deaths, and brought them back to the beach.

During the fire attack, HMS Alligator arrived and was guided to her anchorage by the flames. Our Kap Soy Mun correspondent suggests that H M ships should anchor at each entrance to the anchorage rather than together as at present.

Vol 13 No 22 – 9th June 1840

A writer in the May edition of the Chinese Repository questions whether reparations should be sought for our surrendered opium. He thinks this newspaper should clearly explain why we think it is due. This is a singular attitude. He says “at commencement of the difficulties, Elliot was prepared to stop opium business both in the river and outside but Commissioner Lin doubted Elliot’s sincerity. Several proposals were made by Elliot for ending the difficulties but were all unheeded.”

Editor – The writer must be confused. When Lin arrived there was no opium trade in the river. Perhaps he is referring to conditions in December 1838 when Elliot acted against the river trade in opium and he assumed Elliot might have extended his action to the opium ships then at Hong Kong.

As to the reasons for reparations, we were imprisoned, starved and threatened with death and to bring an end to these privations we handed over the opium. If you call that confiscation it insinuates that all opium holders were criminals. But it was not confiscation, it was theft and we now require restitution. Lin should not have taken the opium on behalf of China and he certainly should not have destroyed it. He should have stored it until he could hand it over to H M ships.

Vol 13 No 24 – 16th June 1840

Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, recited in the Atlas of 29th February 1840:

“Great events from little causes spring” This is exemplified on an unprecedented scale by the impending clash of Empires. The strongest and the oldest are embroiled in fiscal questions and a pretence of morals that will affect the fate of 300 million Chinese.

A fabulous sum is recited in the British Declaration of War as due in damages, excluding costs of judgment and execution and punitive damages. This is public robbery attended by fraud, falsehood, cowardice and treachery.

For China the die is cast – external war will bring on internal revolution. The fabric of this vast unmanageable Empire will be torn. After our first exhibition of might, the other powers will come one by one to tear at the corpse until, after a few years and a succession of assaults and the internal convulsions that will inevitably follow, it will dissolve into a thousand provinces, parcelled out amongst the predators, like vultures attending carrion. Conquerors and empires have regularly come and gone before but China alone has stood firm. Its present Manchurian rulers wisely merged their claims of conquest into claims of adoption. They have sunk their own nationality in that of China. The cackling of geese once saved an Empire;46 now the smoking of opium may ruin another.

We are allowed no relationship with China but as traders. We trade on degrading terms and our willingness to passively endure it has invited even greater oppression. Patience has produced no amelioration; it has not purchased friendship or conciliated forbearance.

This war is not simply about opium and silver. The Chinese have long known of our encroachments in India, Burma, Nepal and the Eastern archipelago. Whilst outwardly feigning contempt they must have inwardly been alarmed. They should have made secret preparations for defence. There is an ancient Imperial prophecy that catastrophe will visit China from the West.

Editor – China has made no preparations

Vol 13 No 24 – 16th June 1840

The Calcutta Courier of 21st April reports that the five transports carrying the 49th regiment set off down the Hooghly but a collision ensued between the Isabella Robertson and the Mermaid requiring both ships to return and discharge the troops. Repairs will likely take a month. This will delay the despatch of other ships and troops from Singapore. (a reference to the force being sent to China)

Vol 13 No 24 – 16th June 1840

Arrivals – HMS Alligator (28) on 9th June. She anchored in Macau roads and saluted the forts with 15 guns, which was returned exactly.

Vol 13 No 24 – 16th June 1840

The London papers say HMS Cyclops is ordered to relieve HMS Hydra in the Mediterranean and the latter warship will then leave for East Indies.

Vol 13 No 24 – 16th June 1840

Another article in the Chinese Repository on opium is couched in temperate language and suggests the paper has adopted a more practical view on the subject than formerly. On mentioning the opium traders the author says ‘it is not the province of man to condemn them’. He says the flexibility of Chinese responses suggests even a rehabilitation of Hsu Nai Tsi is conceivable. He says he thinks it impossible for traders to stop bringing opium but eventually domestic cultivation will exclude the foreign product.

Vol 13 No 24 – 16th June 1840

The New York papers have reported the blockade of the Canton river by HMS Volage but have allowed the inference that the American Protest against the blockade was the reason for its cancellation. We published the law concerning blockades in our 1st September 1839 issue. In fact the blockade was never established, as we reported in that issue. A British officer does his duty regardless of Protests. Did America Protest against the French blockades of Buenos Aires and Mexico?

The American traders Protested to Capt Smith at Hong Kong and they held him personally, and the British sovereign and government vicariously, responsible for damages for injuries or for lost property. Those who protested were John Cadman Jr, Jos O Carter, John Cunningham, Wm MacMichael, S B Rawle, A A Ritchie, Russell & Co, J Ryan, Clinch Weston and Wetmore & Co.

(NB – it seems the Americans were simply reminding Elliot of international law on the subject and that they were maintaining British trade by trans-shipment)

Vol 13 No 24 – 16th June 1840

Woo, the Heungshan heen, has proclaimed the prohibition on Chinese going to foreign countries in barbarian ships, 13th June:

For a long time people have heard seductive things about foreign countries and have secretly left China. This is prohibited and you are liable to arrest and punishment. You should all work quietly here. If you knowingly break this law you will be charged with “illegal contact with foreigners” and will be strictly examined and punished.47

Vol 13 No 24 – 16th June 1840

The Canton Regatta Club will hold its 5th regatta off the Praia Grande on 18th and 19th June. Elliot will umpire in the Louisa. Stewards are Thos Fox, A Anderson, P F Robertson, A Jardine, D L Burn and W Leslie. The races are all 1 mile or 1½ miles. Boats will be provided to accommodate the ladies comfortably.

Vol 13 No 25 – 23rd June 1840

Galignani’s Messenger has an article on ‘The spirit of the London Press concerning China’ in its 18th February edition:

We receive all sorts of gloomy news from abroad but parliamentary incapacity means it does not get discussed.

Last week brought news from China. Two British warships were surrounded by Chinese junks and an engagement ensued in which 5-6 junks out of 19 were sunk. The singular thing is that Elliot, whose incompetence appears to have originated the dispute, meddled with Capt Smith, the senior naval officer on station, and prevented his destruction of the entire Chinese fleet. Had he permitted it, it might have brought about the end of Chinese naval interference.

Elliot acted on grounds of humanity. Real humanity does not consist of forbearance to an armed foe that enables him to renew hostilities later. The Chinese on this occasion acted with more courage than hitherto and it was accordingly the proper time to give a signal lesson. Our force comprised a 28-gun frigate and a sloop-of-war. The war-junks had 200 men each. It is now feared that Commissioner Lin has confused forbearance with inability48 and, considering his limited loss, is planning another engagement.

Our trade is stopped, our flag humiliated. Maitland is dead and Lord Minto must locate some superannuated Whig admiral to replace him. We suspect there is now some scheme afoot to satisfactorily adjust matters with China

Vol 13 No 25 – 23rd June 1840

Public Notices of the Commander of British ships on the East Indies station:

  • I, Sir James John Gordon Bremer, give notice that a blockade of the Canton River by all its entrances will commence on or after 28th June 1840.
  • For the convenience of foreign ships resorting to Canton in ignorance of the blockade, they may remain at Kap Soy Mun or Macau roads.

Sgd Bremer on board HMS Wellesley, 22nd June 1840

Vol 13 No 25 – 23rd June 1840

Notice – Bibby Adam & Co has ceased business in China. Anyone with claims should contact Thomas Edmond before 1st July or M/s W & T Gemmell & Co thereafter. Sgd Macau, 20th June.

Vol 13 No 25 – 23rd June 1840

London tea auctions, 1st March – 7 million pounds of tea was offered at auction and prices fell by an average 3d per lb. Only 1.8 million pounds was sold. The remaining stock in London exceeds 40 million pounds. At the 3rd March auction prices firmed about one penny.

Vol 13 No 25 – 23rd June 1840

A Chinese junk has returned from the Pratas shoal and reported a wreck thereon. They brought back some cargo, sails and private papers. From the available evidence it appears to be the wreck of the Egyptian from Liverpool. She was sailing from Singapore to Manila. Nothing was seen of the crew.49

Vol 13 No 25 – 23rd June 1840

London Times, 2nd March – Needless war is wanton wickedness. This appears to be the case in the quarrel our ministers have picked with China. Elliot is supposed to superintend the lawful trade whilst the illegal trade, so far as can be judged, appears to have caused the breach. Naval engagements have occurred, blood has been spilt, costly preparations are being made in England and are about to commence on a great scale in India, all to enforce what ministers call ‘redress for wrongs incurred’. It is more likely that mankind will view fresh attacks on China as our own ‘wrongs’.

Elliot got the British merchants to surrender their illicit opium on his promise of indemnity from the British government. He was prepared to have the British people pay £2 millions for the smugglers’ contraband. Was he authorised or not? If authorised it should be paid to prevent the act appearing as the rash act of an incapable functionary who should have been dismissed. But the pledge has not been redeemed and neither has Elliot been dismissed. It appears that the merchants were defrauded of their property which prevented their making individual deals with the Chinese. Any dishonour accruing to England stems from our being parties to this deception of British traders by an appointed official.

There is more. Was Elliot justified in attacking the Chinese junks? The result of the engagement does not help, for Smith was ordered by Elliot to cease fire before he had accomplished the destruction of the Chinese fleet. On the face of it, Elliot made war on China because they had confiscated the opium.

Was Elliot authorised by his Whig masters to involve England in war with China? He was the British commercial agent. How was he authorised to blockade Canton? He is as useless as the people who instruct him. Blockades can only occur in war – that is the law.

Lords Melbourne and Palmerston, to accommodate the French50 and in criminal disregard of British interests, have waived the enforcement of this indisputable doctrine of blockade. Now France holds more or less all South America under blockade in defiance of international law. It would be shabbily consistent for the Melbourne cabinet to follow the French example and ruin our own interests in China. France is strong so Melbourne permitted the South American blockade. Now, like bullies, the ministry emulates this unjust outrage on the weak Chinese.

Whether Elliot had authority for the blockade or not, he should have persisted once started firstly as a matter of his duty and secondly as an assumed right on the basis of his discretion.

In actual fact no sooner was the blockade announced than it was postponed because some 10-12 Americans complained it restricted their trade. At least the Americans showed more resolution that the Whig government here in support of British South American trade against France. The Americans worked assiduously against the blockade and strongly protested to us about it with the result that the blockade was abandoned. An act of vigour was met with one of pitiful submission.

Is this how British interests are protected and British honour maintained?

It is a nice question if this tribe of Admiralty Elliots from Minto down can be trusted with important work. There have been sufficient follies and offences concentrated in a single year to humiliate the proudest empire and make our name a laughing-stock.

There is a gang of unprincipled adventurers who have the legislature in their hands and, unless something astonishing happens, we despair of Englishmen showing one spark of generous patriotism or one single recollection of their country’s greatness.

Canton Register Editor – It is unfortunate that Elliot did not permit the destruction of the Chinese fleet. Had it happened the report to the Emperor on the engagement could not have been made to appear a Chinese victory (the British ships left the battlefield first) and the subsequent attempts to burn our ships would likely not have occurred. Although they failed, they did cause confusion and some Britons were wounded in scuffles.

Vol 13 No 25 – 23rd June 1840

Galignani’s Messenger, 5th March – Britain has been elevated to a commanding position in the World and yet we permit lesser nations to sport with us. France gulps down Algeria in a single mouthful. It takes the Gambia, Guiana and Minorca as hors d’oeuvres. It crowns the feast with diversions in Mexico and Buenos Aires. Now America attacks us at Canton. Our imperial destinies are swamped by Palmerston and our navy is infested with Elliots.

Elliot resolved on blockading Canton with HMS Volage. The Americans then launched their quixotic protest. Their profits had just doubled and tripled due to Elliot’s blundering direction of trade. The cause of this American contempt appears to have been the French blockade of Mexico. For two years the Americans have had nothing to say about the French action; no hint that the blockades were illegal, that they infringed existing treaties; no question of the French admiral being served with a notice that he would be held ‘personally responsible’ for injury or damage.

American impudence has been withheld from France and reserved solely for England. As The Times says “a blockade is a right of war, and of war only”.

The French blockades in South America are unjustifiable and might have been resisted at the outset but the precedent on which they were based was our own victimisation of Colombia so we could hardly protest. Palmerston’s policies of ‘might over right’ work well when the antagonist is weak and defenceless. The silly affair with our Panamanian consul was magnified into pretext for the blockade of Porto Bello and Cartagena and that became the precedent that the French adopted at Vera Cruz and La Plata. We have therefore damaged our own case and our ability to complain has been limited. Not so America – she only has a grievance when the opponent is weak.

Vol 13 No 25 – 23rd June 1840

Asiatic Journal, December 1839:

Government has told the applicants for opium compensation that there is no money to pay them and ministers intend not to appeal to parliament. This will embarrass Captain Elliot, the purchaser of the opium, as much as the owners.

There are three choices facing the opium owners – they can swallow the loss; they can bring actions against Elliot at common law or they can petition parliament for relief. The last-named course appears most likely.

It does appear that the Company were the virtual smugglers. They grew the stuff, their Bengal government is in debt to the smugglers who were really just instruments to carry the drug and, since the Zemindar of Nozeed Act, there is no procedural difficulty to indemnity.51

Meanwhile a market has developed in the Certificates of Surrender (the so-called opium scrip) at Calcutta and the smuggling trade continues along the north-east coast of China.

Editor – well, this is an about-face for the Asiatic Journal. Previously opium was just a revenue earner and the smugglers to China were vile people. A reader has passed us a letter from Bengal dated 20th February 1816:

“The object of government in interfering with the traffic is merely to control the use of opium rather than to profit from it. Government needs a means of regulating and restricting the retailing of opium to its own officials. This measure is hoped to prevent the illicit traffic and gradually reduce the recreational use of opium and confine it to medical purposes.”

The Court of Directors wrote to the Bengal Government on 24th October 1817 concerning the export trade:

“It is our wish to not encourage the use of opium but to make its price as high as possible without encouraging smuggling throughout India or the import of (cheaper) opium from other countries. We would prefer to end its use in compassion to mankind but that is impossible. All we can do is regulate and palliate an evil that cannot be eradicated.”

In fact the position was ‘if we don’t supply the Chinese, someone else will’. The Company sought to improve its product over the opium of the Marwarries. The Asiatic Journal has often said that the Company’s factory at Canton restrained the country trade from quickly developing opium business. Well, here is Walter Stevenson Davidson’s evidence to the House of Lords:

“I was first in business with Mr George Baring who had been a member of the Company’s factory in China but later resigned and returned to England. I was associated in business with M/s J Molony and J W Roberts who had also worked for the Company’s China factory. They had worked for the Company for many years. Later I established W S Davidson & Co at Calcutta.

“The first member of the factory I knew was Fitzhugh (now Lord Strathallan). Henry and William Baring, George’s brothers, also belonged to it. I joined in 1811. We were Agents for all sorts of Indian produce but 90% was cotton and opium. The Company knew that I managed the opium trade. I first went to China in 1807. Then the Company stopped their own staff from trading in opium and invited me to go out and run the business as a separate entity. The arrangement was that every dollar I made from opium was mine and every dollar I made from cotton was theirs. Before that time the Company had not continuously allowed its officials to trade in opium; they changed the regulations two or three times. They changed them again after I joined the house.”

Later in his evidence Davidson says:

“On one occasion (in 1820) a ship was consigned to me at Whampoa with the most valuable cargo then ever sent to China in one bottom (the Mentor) – an estimated $1.6 millions. The opium trade was threatened by Chinese officials at that time. I soon received a warning from the ship’s captain that he suspected he was about to be boarded as both his officers had become violently ill after eating a dinner made from Chinese provisions – he thought they had been poisoned. I arranged for the other country traders to man the boats and prepare to descend on Whampoa. At the same time I told the President of the Select (Urmston), who was my intimate friend, that there was £400,000 of British property a Whampoa in danger of being plundered. If the attempt is made, many lives will be lost. What will you do? He said his orders regarding opium were clear but with so much valuable property at risk he would exceed them. We arranged a secret signal between myself and one of his ship captains at Whampoa on giving which the Company’s fleet would come to my aid. I then returned to the small boats of the country ships and sailed to Whampoa. On arrival the Chief Mate had died and the other officer remained ill. There was no suggestion of intended aggression from the Chinese. I nevertheless signalled the Company ship for a surgeon to examine the dead mate’s body. They discovered that he had not been poisoned. We maintained a strong watch for 24 hours. The Chinese either saw our preparations or had never intended to attack. Thus the perceived danger passed”

This reveals that not only did the India Company directly sell opium from time to time but the President of the Select was prepared to protect the trade in the river, much as Elliot himself did in the outer waters on 22nd March 1839. How can the Asiatic Journal talk of the Company’s Select Committee at Canton acting as a check on opium trading. In fact the Company operated its private Agency business until 1816, recognising it was in the interests of the company that opium sales should prosper.

The editor of the Asiatic Journal is biased. He never mentions the Bengal government’s consideration in 1836 to finance the auction sales with cheap money to assist merchants through a difficult time (as reported in Bengal Herald, 3rd January 1836). The measure was abandoned but it indicates the government’s willingness to stimulate opium trade.

He is wrong in saying ‘it is preposterous to indemnify smugglers who have lost their contraband through the operation of law.’ Our opium was seized under duress not under the operation of law.

He says of the opium smugglers ‘they knew the risks they incurred. They were their own insurers. They have reaped windfall profits for years. The total loss now is a mere deduction from those profits.’ Well, this applies as much to the Company as to the free traders. We quote from the Bengal government’s letter to the Bombay Chamber (c.f. our issue of 27th April) concerning refunds given to purchasers:

‘The Calcutta opium auctions are simply a means of raising a heavy export duty on the Bengal drug. The amount of duty varies annually dependant on the state of the market but should it become too onerous and make Bengal opium uncompetitively expensive we will reduce it.’

Editor – On this thinking, the loss of 20,000 chests was simply a loss of accumulated duty. Anyway, it should be clear that the Company was deeply involved in opium trading to China and they really should be manly and own up to it.

Vol 13 No 25 – 23rd June 1840

The background to the opium trade is well covered by Select Committee investigations in parliament, particularly in the lucid statements of W S Davidson and H Magniac. It is surprising that editors of London papers continue to betray their ignorance on the subject. The Times is against the present ministry and routinely abuses it but to say that Elliot superintends the opium trade is absurd. On the contrary he acted against it. Opium trading and trans-shipment of cargoes were two things he could not control.

It was the enterprising merchants in China who got the teas off to England in 1839 / 40 in spite of Elliot’s attempted trade interventions. The British government revenue on those teas will be about £3 millions. That result is due to the opium trade supplying the funds needed to buy tea. Had it not been so the English people would now be without their morning cuppa and the government without a large part of its revenue.

The Times wonders if Elliot was justified in attacking the war-junks. There were 16 junks and 13 fire-rafts intending to burn the two British ships. Their preparations reveal it was they who commenced the attack, not us.52 One wonders what measures The Times would consider justified. Since Lin’s arrival last March we think there can be very few measures that are not justifiable. Part of The Times’ vitriol is due to anti-Whig sentiment but when it is used to turn the English people against their own countrymen, it becomes a contemptible form of treason.

Both The Times and the Calcutta Courier err concerning the proposed blockade last September. They must have known the facts (as indeed did the New York papers) but they all blame Elliot. The Courier additionally blames the Americans for protesting against it. The surprising things about the American protest is that it should have become known here via New York and that it should have been made when the Americans were representing all our interests. Their protest is based first on international law. That might impress a gentleman in New York but China has neither knowledge of nor interest in international law. It can hardly restrain one party and not the other. Blockades and embargoes are mitigated forms of hostility designed to return the parties to negotiations. Their use should be encouraged not restricted.

Vol 13 No 25 – 23rd June 1840

Statistical abstract – British and Irish produce and manufactures exported to the Company’s dominions in 1838 in Pounds Sterling:

To the sub-continent and Ceylon

To Sumatra, Java and islands

To Philippines

To China

To Australia






Vol 13 No 25 – 23rd June 1840

Westminster parliamentary report:

Wm Crawford MP, father of R W Crawford, presented a petition on behalf of Forbes & Co describing the conditions under which the China traders were required to surrender their opium to Elliot. He requested an enquiry into the facts. It was agreed to refer the matter to a Select Committee.

J Abel Smith said the war preparations in India were well-known and asked where the expedition was going. Lord John Russell said they were firstly to obtain reparations for insults to Elliot and the other British subjects; secondly to get an indemnity for the opium seized under duress and thirdly to settle secure terms for future trade.

Crawford then reviewed the opium trade to China. He noted Lin had arrived with extraordinary and unprecedented powers to end opium importing. Elliot then ‘entered the lion’s mouth’ and took possession of the opium on his promise of indemnification. The promise remained unperformed and government had not acknowledged Elliot’s claims. He gave at as his view that the British merchants owed implicit allegiance to every order Elliot issued.

Sir George Staunton supported the government action.

Lord Sandon said he would in due course call on parliament to condemn the Company’s poppy farming and request British support for China in suppressing the trade. He wondered if the Chinese had better grounds for declaring war on us than we had on them.

(NB – he later withdrew his motion when Crawford’s Select Committee, above, was appointed. The committee comprised Wm Crawford, Palmerston, Robert Peel, George Staunton, Gladstone, John Elliot, John Abel Smith, Viscount Sandon, Chas Buller, Edward Buller, Herbert, Colquhoun, George Grey, Hogg, Parker, Strutt, Clay, Horsman, Wm Somerville, Robert Harry Inglis, Chas Lemon, )

Lord Palmerston opined that Elliot had precisely followed the old pre-1834 Company policy concerning opium smuggling.

Vol 13 No 25 – 23rd June 1840

The British fleet has arrived to join HMS Volage and Hyacinth:

Warships – HMS Wellesley (74), HMS Druid (44), HMS Conway (28), HMS Larne (20), HMS Cruizer (16), HMS Algerine (10).

Troopship – Rattlesnake

Steamers – HCS Queen, HCS Atalanta, HCS Madagascar

Transports – Blundell, David Malcolm, Defiance, Elizabeth, Lyster and Eagle.

Vol 13 Extraordinary – Thursday 25th June 1840

The fleet has started arriving. Rev Gutzlaff will join HMS Wellesley as interpreter to Bremer while J R Morrison will serve Admiral George Elliot who is daily expected.

HMS Blenheim (72), HMS Blonde (42), HMS Nimrod (20), HMS Wanderer (18) and HMS Pylades (18) are en route. HMS Pique (42), HMS Inconstant (36), HMS Andromache (36) and the steamer Hydra are also coming.

The Editor adds a long exposition of what the force should expect to encounter and what it should do together with a recital of Staunton’s observations during the Macartney Embassy

Vol 13 No 26 – 30th June 1840

Morning Chronicle – British trade with China increased from 1834 to 1838. In 1839 there was a 10+% drop in tonnage inwards and a 50% drop in tonnage outwards compared with the previous year. This is what the opium trade has done to our business. In 1836 we exported 24,099 tons of manufactures worth £1,326,388 while this year the amount will return to the quantities in the days of the Company’s Charter.

The Chinese have fiercely interdicted the opium trade whilst making exceptions in favour of the legal trade which they wish to preserve and encourage. They maintain their cultural suspicion of non-Chinese and will continue their restrictive policies towards us. Little commercial freedom will be allowed voluntarily. The opening of trade in 1834 benefited England by reducing the cost of tea and, when our trade is again re-opened, we hope the benefits will continue.

Elliot said in his declaration of 21st June that the opium trade was encouraged and protected by the highest officials of the Chinese government. He said that the opium traders had paid their dues to the officers with more regularity than any other branch of foreign trade. This appears to settle the matter of the Kwongtung government’s complicity in opium trading.

Vol 13 No 26 – 30th June 1840

The Englishman, 30th April – Thirty members of the anti-opium lobby (mostly members of the Society of Friends) met in London on 13th February 1840 with John Sanderson in the chair.

It was resolved that:

  • Growing opium in India for sale in China was discreditable to England.
  • The opium trade to China endangers the legal trade.
  • A Society be formed to discourage opium farming in India and opium selling in China.

All concerned for the moral welfare of China and the commercial interests of England should lobby their MP’s and send petitions to both Houses.

Editor – The Society of Friends is a regular investor in opium. It sends funds to Calcutta; this is invested on Respondentia in opium and the drug consigned to China where its sale proceeds are used to buy the teas that the Society retails to its membership. Over half of this year’s tea exports were financed the same way.53

Vol 13 No 26 – 30th June 1840

Commons, 2nd April – Sir James Graham read his draft resolution on China. On the basis of the papers it appears the interruption of our friendly trade with China and the ensuing hostilities are due to a lack of foresight by the British government in not giving Elliot sufficient powers to deal with the opium smugglers.

Editor – did not Elliot tell us formally on 22nd December 1838 that he had orders from government reprobating opium smuggling in the river, orders that fixed the course he would pursue?

Did he not tell us all on 22nd May 1839 (and the Weiyuan and Keunmin foo on 21st June) that he was appointed to ‘adjust all difficulties’? As early as 24th March 1839 he told the Chinese he was empowered to end the difficulties. At that time, he asked to be freed from detention at Canton in order to calmly consider remedies for the opium evils. Even in these latest Edicts he says he was ready to faithfully fulfil the Imperial pleasure.

On 31st December 1838 he published his instructions to us all and they turned out to be the 1833 authorities to the Company, laws that expired with the monopoly. This is a sufficient review of Elliot’s ‘powers’.

Turning to Sir James’ resolution, where is the justification for Elliot’s offer ‘to faithfully fulfil the Emperor’s will’ or for his offers last October to accompany the Chinese in searching the British ships in the outer waters for opium? It would be interesting to learn what powers Elliot was actually granted.

Vol 13 No 26 – 30th June 1840

We hear Commissioner Lin has reported to the Emperor a disgusting and libellous account of the marriage of our Queen. Modesty forbids us saying more.

Vol 13 No 26 – 30th June 1840

Notice – Wilkinson Dent has resigned from our firm on 30th June 1840. The continuing partners are James Nugent Daniell and Anthony Stewart Daniell, represented in China per pro by W C Legent and John H Cannan. Sgd Daniell & Co, 30th June 1840



1 Since the Company’s monopoly was determined, the commercial use of diplomatic cover is not relevant to maintaining residence in China; Nor does it enhance protection from the Chinese or comprise much defence against other Europeans. The commercial diplomat’s function has now become the ability to issue Bills on the country of appointment, to accumulate capital in that country’s central bank and to register ships and ship details on the national registry.

2 To counter the preference of countries choosing their own trading partners, the British adopted the MFN clause in all commercial treaties. This required the country signing the treaty to give Britain the same trading terms as its Most Favoured Nation

3 the half-chest containing smaller balls – see the Asia and Opium chapters.

4 The Customs officers were captured by the smugglers at Hong Kong and roughed-up.

5 The belief of investors in the London financial market that they were not trading in opium was widespread. Charities and churches were largely involved. Investments in the Company’s annual trade, which paid 10% p.a., were always fully subscribed. This money was routinely funnelled through the opium auctions at Calcutta to enhanced the profit. London investors saw the metals and manufactures shipped off from the East India docks and the tea and silk come back and were said to be unaware of the Indian trade in between. This is the same sort of triangular trade that perplexed British administrations during the war with Napoleon. When the Charities and Church of England became aware, they felt unable to protest the opium sales in China.

6 One or two of the large traders sent opium to Manila and Singapore to avoid its surrender to Elliot for Commissioner Lin. This cargo on the Mars represents part of that supply. There is no regular opium trade from Manila to Canton.

7 This last insight of Choo’s is still an accurate description of the buying choices of many Chinese.

8 The writer is here confusing debt-based finance (substituting credit for value in exchange that was forced upon Britain by national bankruptcy due to the Revolutionary War with France), with prudent economic policy. In fact countries with sound economies routinely seek to increase their gold and silver holdings to provide support for their currencies beyond mere investor confidence.

9 I had not thought of describing Yarkand as tributary to China. It is on the southern route around the Takla Makan and within the Chinese frontier then and now.

10 Prices had fallen in London due to oversupply and the reportedly poor quality of some teas.

11 Aden in Yemen is being made a coaling station for the overland route by steamer and will be absorbed into the empire. The only Patrick Robertson appearing in these pages is the former Partner in Turner & Co mentioned in China (chapter 9) who returned to UK on the death of Turner and closure of his Canton business.

12 The successor arrangement with the Magniac / Jardine firm after the abandonment of the Company’s own Agency Department.

13 A reference to the Jewish God’s commands to Moses, the 4th of which was to ‘remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.’ For Jews Saturday is the Sabbath whilst British Christians in the China trade deem it to be Sunday.

14 The Westminster Review.

15 An expression of the Kien Lung Emperor – the foreign trade was to be controlled by ‘tea reins’.

16 Thought by the foreign community to be a personal friend of the To Kwong Emperor.

17 ‘Fast crab’ is the Mandarin expression for the Cantonese Cherng Lung Soon or Cherng Lung Teng (long dragon boat) – a wide dragon boat with a hold, decked for standing rowers. The ones built by the foreigners on Lintin had hatch coamings.

18 D W C Olyphant resigned in August 1839, this statement is most likely by Partner Wm Morss, however the Repository is now online (2010) and the letter is not shown.

19 Six days after publication! I guess the date should be 6th March.

20 Ping Pei Tao is similar to Tao Tai, the military commander of part of a Province. See Hucker ‘Official Titles in Imperial China’.

21 This overlooks firstly the market-testing and provision of half-chests in 1820s for ease of smuggling that Wm Jardine mentioned and secondly the Calcutta Customs records showing the exports to China.

22 Charles Grant was President of the Board of Control 1830-34 but much of the work was done by the Board’s Secretary which sinecure changed almost annually.

23 Hansard XVIII, Page 770

24 A shortfall arose in the disclosed quantity of stock due reportedly to the departure of Mr Pereira’s ship and possibly British removals to the East Coast and Manila.

25 Possibly a reference to Prime Minister Earl Grey’s visit to Macau and Canton, see the relevant chapter, but it is conceivable that the Editor did not publish the visit and even may have been unaware of it. In any event Grey’s diary indicates mainly the tendency of his thinking in prospect of Charter renewal.

26 No mention of ‘silver leaking out’ in this article. The British mercantile belief that it is solely the loss of silver that motivates the Emperor already seems doubtful.

27 The Editor might have also mentioned the sheepskin coverings on Bengal chests to absorb handling shocks which were always popular in Southern China.

28 This attempted suppression, along the Nerbudda River connecting the growing area to Damaun, was Henry Pottinger’s job and may have been a factor in his later selection for Plenipotentiary to China.

29 This is the first published quantification of London capital directly participating in the trade. It is developed further by the Editor in subsequent editions to explain why the British churches and charities failed to take a strong position against opium.

30 Cave – those people who sailed away with their opium were not punished for their breach.

31This expresses British justification of colonisation – Elizabeth I’s instructions to her explorers permitting their occupation of deserted or abandoned land.

32 From the days when China’s foreign maritime trade was with Arabs there was a vibrant smuggling market in the islands – initially at St John’s Island (San Chuan) where the Portuguese and later the Dutch first traded. St Francis Xavier is buried there.

33 He is the eldest son of G F Young, MP for Tynemouth & North Shields and a Director of the New Zealand Company. He is mainly associated with New Zealand.

34 The hair shave and queue are marks of submission to the Manchu Ching dynasty.

35 Also sophistry. Successive British ministries have raised a revenue on tea approximating the Company’s gross sale prices at auction. Whatever financial benefit opium provided in making the tea supply cheaper, it did not survive to the benefit of the British tea-drinker being completely absorbed in the national revenue. This is like Pitt’s act in the Economy chapter when the brewers reduced their prices by 6d and he raised a further tax on beer of the same amount, saying the brewers no longer wanted it.

36 This refers to Elliot’s brief attempt to commence an outside trade at Chuen Pi.

37The British Empire in the East’, published John Murray 1839 by Magnus Fredrik Ferdinand Bjornstjerna, Swedish Minister to London at the time.

38 This treaty may have been obtained from the Bourbons on their being reinstated in the sovereignty of France in 1815 in which case it will be amongst the voluminous agreements collected under the Treaty of Vienna concluding the Napoleonic War, but I have not found a trace of it. It alternatively might be an agreement between the Company and the French Viceroy in Asia.

39 It came down to the Yung Ching Emperor’s attempt to base revenue on a land tax which taxed the rich but was reversed by Kien Lung who substituted a poll tax on every citizen. That injustice marked the beginning of the end of the Ching dynasty in my opinion. It diminished popular support. Its immediate effect has been obscured by Kien Lung’s expansionary foreign policy.

The matter of piracy along the entire coast is something the foreign smugglers at Canton knew all about. When the coastal people are employed smuggling they are adequately paid and piracy stops; when the smuggling is stopped, piracy reasserts itself. The coastal people are also vegetable and chicken farmers and fishermen as their interests dictate.

40 It is not at all clear that these routine instructions were included in the papers given to Napier. During the war with Napoleon British trade everywhere became a smuggling trade and the London government was not subsequently able to restore its revenue from Customs and Excise – this was a fundamental issue, the resolution of which was ‘free trade’ whereby the government ceased taxing trade and obtained a similar revenue by taxing workers’ incomes. Arising from this, if Foreign Office instructions to Consuls addressed smuggling, it pre-dated the rise of ‘relaxed’ trade to national economic importance.

41 See below and in the Opium Chapter for this bit of political deception by City of London merchants.

42 This refers to Lord Sydenham, the former Charles Poulett Thomson, President of the Board of Trade and Governor of Canada. Wm Wilberforce is often associated with the end of the trade in slaves; Robert Hall was an eloquent Baptist of the times. All were opium eaters.

43 Because of high ambient humidity – tea quickly loses its flavour.

44 I do not know Mo Tau but the Brothers Islands are called Mo To in Cantonese. These small islands, north east of Chek Lap Kok Island, were levelled during construction of Chek Lap Kok airport.

45 This refers to domestic policy. The international aspect of the delay was to permit Capt Elliot time to arrange for British and Indian Government compliance.

46 Rome in 390 BC from attack by the Gauls.

47 This is a tardy Edict. There is a population of about half a million Chinese at Bangkok and large communities at all the major ports of Java, Sumatra, Malaya, Celebes, Moluccas and Philippines as well as some gardeners and merchants in British India and a small population in London and Paris. Napoleon had Chinese cooks and gardeners.

48 The ubiquitous British view of Chinese at that time – that forbearance is understood as weakness.

49 It was Chinese fishermen who collected fish and shellfish from the Paracels and Spratleys in 18th and 19th centuries, sailing down on the winter monsoon and returning in summer. They were licensed by officials on Hai Nan Island. Royal Naval records of this time substantiate their occupation.

50 Over the blockade of Vera Cruz.

51 This Act related to the usurious loans business that Madras merchants made to the rulers of Carnatic states. It required the Company to settle the merchants’ claims and itself control the native rulers.

52 After Elliot’s Battle of Kowloon Bay and non-surrender of Lam Wai Hei’s murderer.

53 This is the unfortunate circumstance that emasculates British liberal opinion over opium. The churches and charities have been investing in Company and Indian Agency subscriptions, seeing the British manufactures shipped off and the teas return They collect their 10 percent each year without knowledge of the intermediate trade.

Comments are closed.