China 1838-1839 – part 8


Vol 11 No 31 – 31st July 1838

The new Hoppo Yu is a hands-on man. He is requesting the minutest details about everything. All his staff have been replaced and the new clerks are ignorant. Consequently, his endless questions fall upon the Hongs and Linguists to answer.1

Vol 11 No 31 – 31st July 1838

On 26th July a party of 12 foreigners went to the city gate to petition the Viceroy against the Hoppo who has re-rated our long-cloth at a higher quality than before. Even goods already graded by his predecessor’s staff are affected.

Mr Thom2 framed the petition and is interpreting for the group. Two Hong merchants took the petition to the Viceroy whose reply is awaited.

Vol 11 No 31 – 31st July 1838

The Canton Register has always opposed the notion that H M Commissioners need Imperial consent to perform their functions. Ours was for years a lonely view. We doubt the expediency of Elliot’s submission to Imperial order to go to Canton in April 1837. The only privilege obtained is in the name – the officials called Elliot Ling Sze whereas the President of the Select was a mere Tai Pan.

Elliot left Canton in November 1837. He had been ordered to communicate with the Viceroy and that officer refused to permit it. Nothing has changed.

We were accordingly surprised to see Elliot again in Canton last Wednesday and the British flag again flying from the British consulate pole. We do not believe he has new instructions from London but perhaps the Admiral has told him something.

Vol 11 No 31 – 31st July 1838

Memorial to the Emperor:

The people require severe punishment to be manageable. Officials must perform their public duty even if it arouses hatred. The prevalent opinion that opium smokers are too numerous to be confronted is overly indulgent.

If they have a year to abandon the habit, many will comply and others will be deterred from taking up the habit. The magistrates should examine all taxpayers under their jurisdiction. Take a bond from every five families to not smoke. This will suffice for rural communities.

In the cities, where people come and go, the neighbourhood associations must be used. Shopkeepers must be particularly impressed not to allow their premises to be used for smoking.

If any civil or military officials smoke after the year’s grace they must be more severely punished than is customary. The sons and grandsons of civil and military officers may be excluded from the public examinations.

Magistrates who successfully eradicate opium use in their areas will be rewarded. Magistrates who fail will be punished. Bonds are not required of every soldier but some joint bonding should be fixed on them.

Let this order be published everywhere so the people may know that the Emperor cares for their wealth and welfare. Opium smokers must purify their hearts and abandon their habit. Then opium will cease coming and silver will cease disappearing and the Empire will be peaceful for ten thousand years.

Vol 11 No 31 – 31st July 1838

Edict of the new Hoppo Yu, 27th July 1838:

Jardine and others petitioned in Chinese on 25th July. They say the duty on recent imports of long-cloth has been increased. They say my new clerks have assessed 3rd class cloth as 2nd class and 2nd class as 1st class.

Grey (unbleached) cloth has historically been 3rd class. They say the former Hoppo Wan examined this type of merchandise personally and has musters in the Consoo House whereby the fine and coarse grades may be distinguished.

From the record I see that Fox and others petitioned on the same subject in 1836 and afterwards samples were given to the Hongs to maintain in the Consoo House. Later the Hoppo Wan discovered that the samples provided by the foreigners differed from the goods that were the subject of their complaint. Had we assessed duty per sample all 1st class cloth would have been rated as 2nd class, etc.

The Hong merchants were accordingly informed to inculcate honesty in the foreigners.

I do not propose to listen to the endless complaints of the foreigners; nor do I seek for popularity. The duties on each grade of cloth are fixed. If the foreigners wish to dispute assessments they should attend at the time of inspection and themselves produce samples of the various grades to support any views they may hold. Thus the matter can be agreed at the outset. Be advised.

Vol 11 No 31 – 31st July 1838

Letter of the Hongs to the foreign merchants – the Hoppo Yu has given us ten pieces of long-cloth. Please come to the Consoo House to examine minutely and decide on the quality. 29th July

Editor – several foreigners attended and opined that not one sample was 1st class. One foreigner then returned to his factory and brought back a sample of 1st class cloth. The quality of 1st class was thus agreed. All other white cloth was then held to be 2nd class and grey cloth is 3rd class.

Vol 11 No 32 – 7th August 1838

Notice dated 1st August – James Starkey has resigned his partnership wef 31st July. Sgd Dirom & Co, Canton.

Vol 11 No 32 – 7th August 1838

Elliot has been playing ‘hide & seek’ with the Hong merchants. He returned to Canton last Wednesday seeking for them. On Sunday he sent the Commission secretary and Morrison to the City Gate with a petition for (but not addressed to) the Viceroy. The two men failed to enter the gate. They were stopped by a large crowd at the outer gate and finally abandoned their attempted delivery.

A few days previously a dozen Englishmen had succeeded where these two national representatives now failed.

On Tuesday Elliot left Canton in the Louisa thus avoiding the Hongs’ enquiries about the subject-matter of the petition he had attempted to serve on the Viceroy.

The Hongs have pursued him to Macau via the inner passage where the game is continuing.

Meanwhile Admiral Maitland moved his warships from Tung Ku, first to Lankeet (nearer the river’s mouth) and then again to Chuen Pi (at the river’s mouth)

Vol 11 No 32 – 7th August 1838

Macau news – the government has suppressed the Macaista Imparcial and will only allow its future publication if its Editor agrees to censorship.

It is said the paper has used inappropriate language in describing government activities. The Macau Chronicle ceased publication a few months ago.

Vol 11 No 32 – 7th August 1838

Letter from the Hong merchant Mow Qua to Jardine:

There are three English warships in the outer waters. Sooner or later some of the crew will certainly want to come up to Canton in boats. As security merchant for these foreign ships, I am required to watch the warships carefully to prevent anyone landing. There may be no conniving or concealment like that which allowed Napier to come furtively to Canton.

On that occasion Sun Shing, who was obliged to secure Lord Amherst (Naish), was imprisoned many months for failing to stop Napier. I hope Captains Tonks, Hamilton, Morgan and Smith, masters of the warships I am securing for you, will not similarly let me down by lending their boats for Maitland’s use.

I fear Maitland will go to Macau and try to come-up to Canton thus creating a criminal liability on me. Sgd Mow Qua

Vol 11 No 32 – 7th August 1838

Letter to the Editor – the General Chamber has taken up your suggestion for a Seamen’s Home and approached the senior Hong merchant for premises.

There are two fundamental requirements. Firstly the seamen need overnight accommodation in Canton; and secondly they must all be registered so we can quantify their needs and wants. Seamen’s Homes have been established in Calcutta and other ports to protect visiting sailors from temptation. That is what we need here but the varied nationalities and races of the seamen might produce irregularities.

It would be better not to encourage any overnight residence but, if that is impractical, to restrict it within the factories where we can supervise and control it.

As regards registration, now the new season is starting, we should provide forms to each arriving Captain to reveal the nationality, age, languages spoken and education of each seaman – we can then devise a system of individual improvement. This would not be onerous for the Chamber secretary – he already has to collect statistics on cargo from each ship.

Each year at Canton we dispose of a huge amount of newspapers, magazines, pamphlets and the like which, if retained and circulated at Whampoa, would make interesting reading for the sailors.

Sgd CC

Editor – all the information CC wants to collect from seamen is already collected and sent to each national Consul.

Vol 11, No 33 – 14th August 1838

The Hong merchants have reported that the new Viceroy is willing to stop trade over the presence of Maitland’s squadron at Chuen Pi.

The Admiral consequently moved the ships back to Tung Ku. The reason he shifted berths in the first place is unknown. He, his officers and fan foo (foreign women), have been expressly forbidden to come to Canton. His provisions and communications are interdicted and his warships are under constant surveillance

The ferry boats entering the river were more strictly supervised this last week and several were stopped and searched.

Vol 11, No 33 – 14th August 1838

Letter to the Editor – The Hongs have just paid 30,000 Taels to fund the improved defensive works at the Bogue that are required to prevent Maitland’s entry to the river. The money comes from the proceeds of foreign trade either directly from the merchants or via their contributions to the Consoo Fund.

I do not see why we traders should fund this alone – why doesn’t Elliot contribute as well? Sgd A Subscriber.

Vol 11, No 33 – 14th August 1838

Edict of the (joint) Viceroy Tang:

“Admiral Kwan at the Bogue was instructed to prevent smuggling by ferry boats and observe the activities of the foreign warships. On 6th August he reported that the previous day he stopped a boat containing a foreigner and 8 seamen travelling from Whampoa to Canton. It had no pass but neither was there any smuggled goods or arms & ammunition on board. It was allowed to proceed.

“His men also stopped seven boats from other ships that were leaving Canton for Whampoa. These each had passports issued by the Hong merchants and were not smuggling. The Admiral suggests that the Hong merchants commend the foreigners to always apply for a passport before commencing a passage. In future he will not permit boats without passports to proceed.

“I, Viceroy Tang, on receiving this advice recall I have repeatedly ordered the Hongs to enjoin on the foreigners the need to obey the law but still some of them come and go as they like without applying for passports. It is fundamentally important that we watch and control the foreigners. The Hong merchants are to ensure the foreigners obey or they will be held accountable.”

Vol 11, No 33 – 14th August 1838

Letter of the 11 Hong merchants to the foreign traders:

Large ferry boats are forbidden in the river. Small boats must apply for a passport and submit to routine searching en route.

Lately we have been severely reprimanded by officials for your failure to observe these laws. We have repeatedly directed you on the approved way of travel and you have repeatedly ignored our advice. On 7th and 8th August several large boats came up from Lintin and Macau. We reported their arrival and the Viceroy was very angry.

Why should we continue to bear responsibility for your crimes? You should show some consideration for us.

We remind you that large boats are forbidden and small boats must get a passport and submit to occasional searches. Boats from Whampoa get the passport from the Hoppo’s boat assigned to observe each ship. They should travel directly to the main Customs House in Canton where they will be searched. They will then deliver the endorsed passport to the Customs House at the steps in front of the factories where the passengers alight. Boats from Canton will get a passport from the Customs House in front of the factories and go to the main Customs House for searching. They will then proceed direct to Whampoa and again be searched at the Customs House there, where they will deliver the passport.

Obey and there will be peace; disobey and there will be trouble.

It seems you are incapable of acting legally – you only understand punishment. In future non-compliant ferry boats will be noted and the trade of the ships they serve will be stopped.

Vol 11, No 33 – 14th August 1838

Viceroy Tang’s Edict, 6th August:

On 7th August a large ferry boat with masts and decks and an awning (one of the schooners) arrived at Canton from Macau. Three foreigners were on board. Foreigners come for trade. Each is connected with one ship or another. To which ships do these three foreigners belong? Who are their security merchants?

The Hong merchants have provided only partial information on this breach of the law. How can I know if Maitland or any of his group were on board this ferry?

The Hong merchants always interpret their duties in a minimalist way. It is clearly my duty to punish them for their negligence but I will first allow them to mitigate their offence by collecting the appropriate information.

They are causing delay and unless they awaken to their duty and cease collaborating with the foreigners, I shall inflict condign punishment on them.

Vol 11, No 33 – 14th August 1838

Letter to the Editor – the factories are already too crowded to provide a home for seamen. Many agents have inadequate space to provide this service for ships’ crews. If a single place is to be used as a Seamen’s Home it will be noisy and disturb the nearby residents. If the home is established outside the factories in a Chinese building we will not be able to control the seamen properly.

I think the realistic plan is to have boat crews return every night to their ships at Whampoa and leave just the holidaying seamen to be entertained by the consignee of their ship. Some have suggested that the proprietors of our two hotels in the factories should set up rooms for the exclusive use of seamen.

I think the best thing would be for the General Chamber to request How Qua to shut more of the grog shops in Hog Lane. If the commercial premises along the Lane are closed up, we could convert the entire row of shops into adequate apartments for seamen. A steady and energetic foreigner should be appointed manager and allowed to charge the same prices as the house compradors. This should be more or less adequate for him to maintain himself.

Concerning record keeping, your suggestion last week that consular records would suffice seems incorrect. I have enquired. The actual records provided by visiting ships to their consul are generally incomplete. Sgd CC

Editor – The Hog Lane tenements are unlikely to be affordable. They each rent to the present Chinese shopmen at $50 – $120 per annum, none of whom are likely to voluntarily relinquish their leases. Even if they did the rent would be double or triple to a foreigner. The General Chamber should instead ask How Qua for a suitable piece of land. As regards registration we hope each ship captain will willingly provide the requisite information to the Chamber.

Vol 11, No 33 – 14th August 1838

Dent & Co’s memorial to the Viceroy, 7th May 1838:

We previously petitioned about Hing Tai Hong. We also have prior claims on King Qua. He owes money to Whiteman whom you expelled last year (see the Opium chapter for details of expelled Britons) and for whom we act. King Qua also owes us. The claims arose due to our forbearance in claiming earlier settlement and by our trying to assist him two years ago to trade through his difficulties by providing funds to settle outstanding revenue demands. We did not mention these debts earlier out of consideration of King Qua’s reputation – he is an old and venerable man.3

He has since died and, once his funeral was concluded, we petitioned the Co-Hong for repayment. We did not want to bankrupt the Hong but merely to settle some mutually agreeable arrangement for repayment. The Co-Hong replied that King Qua would settle his own debts and their involvement, if any, would be between them and him. They declined to provide us with security for our claims. But until now we have not been able to elicit any proposals from King Qua in settlement. We accordingly petition for help in recovering ours and Whiteman’s claims.

How Qua, on behalf of the 10 other Hongs, to Dent & Co, 29th July 1838:

King Qua Hong says it will repay by annual instalments. It will settle the principal sum in ten years and then arrange with you for payment of interest due in subsequent years. The Hong says it cannot settle both principal and interest together. The annual assistance to King Qua that we Hongs render is a matter of friendship between us and not obligation. Our joint liability is triggered only if your debts are declared. So long as King Qua continues in business we cannot become formally involved.

Dent & Co to the Viceroy:

We were prepared to petition you in early May but have instead first explored the possibility of mutually agreeable settlement with King Qua. We attach the correspondence and the proposed settlement offer is unacceptable to us. We are agreeable to sustaining some loss in order to maintain an old and prestigious Hong. Should it be bankrupted we expect a right to interest on our debts from inception to date of bankruptcy at 12% per annum. We want settlement in 4-5 years.

Man Hop paid off his debts in 6 years, Chun Qua in 3 years and the Hongs are proposing to pay off Hing Tai’s debts in 8½ years. We have been misled by the continuing Hongs. At first they indicated favourable early settlement but now, after considerable delay, How Qua has sent us the above letter. We hope you will recognise the justice of our claims, particularly that of Whiteman whom you banished a year and a half ago.

Viceroy to Dent & Co, 5th August:

I have examined Leung Shing Wo’s accounts. Tien Po Hong (King Qua) owes foreigners $1.1 millions. The proprietor proposes repaying the principal in 10 years and the interest subsequently by further agreement. This appears reasonable. The Hongs have agreed to advance $100,000 a year to Leung to help him. The creditors thus have guaranteed repayment.

Now you foreigners show inflexibility and insist on payment of interest with principal. The indebted Hongs failed to comply and you complain to me of injustice. Creditors and debtors are both responsible for debt creation. Allowances must be made for those who have to pay the debts of others. You should recognise the advantage you are being offered.

The Chinese government extends equal justice to Chinese and foreigners. I will not allow you to suffer injustice from others, neither will I allow you to inflict injustice on others.

I order the Hongs to talk with Dent and guide him by reason and equity to a mutually agreeable settlement. The foreign traders must try harder to regulate their own affairs and not continually rely on high officials to solve their predictable problems.

Vol 11 No 34 – 21st August 1838

Editorial – The Viceroy is responsible for two provinces containing over 30 million people yet he calls Admiral Maitland a ‘barbarian supervisor’, his wife a ‘fan foo’ and their female attendants ‘slaves’. The Chinese are particular in their forms of address and they have proper names for all these people.

It is rumoured that the Chinese admiral has apologised to Maitland for his men firing on the schooner Bombay (one of the proscribed Macau ferries) when it entered the river. This was in response to the Viceroy’s request that the military assist the Customs officers to regulate the movements of ferry boats. He authorised the Bogue forts to fire on ferries that disobeyed the regulations. Now the Chinese Admiral has apologised because his men did their duty.

In fact the extensive opium smuggling at Whampoa does not rely on the ferry boats for supply and the Chinese analysis of our smuggling methods is wrong.4

The facts are that the British ferry Bombay was fired on as she entered the river. She hove to and the army’s Linguist came on board. The foreign passengers demanded an explanation. He said the forts fired to prevent Maitland or his men entering the river. Once the Linguist had reported that Maitland et al were not on board, the ferry was permitted to continue. The occupants say that, had the ferry contained a cargo of opium, the Chinese officers would have permitted it as no check of the cargo was made during the confrontation.

Elliot reported the attack to Maitland who moved his fleet up to Chuen Pi and required an explanation from the Chinese Admiral. Apparently Maitland was satisfied and ordered his ships away from Chuen Pi.

Vol 11 No 36 – 4th September 1838

The Fanqui in China by C Toogood Dowling has been published in three volumes in London. We have seen some extracts but they are inadequate to form a view on the book’s overall merits.5

Vol 11 No 36 – 4th September 1838

Letter to the Editor, 3rd September 1838:

Some creditors of Hing Tai and King Qua have made a composition with those Hong merchants for repayment of their debts. They have accepted payment of Hing Tai’s debt over 8½ years without interest and King Qua’s over 10 years with interest at 5% per annum payable in two additional years.

The creditors were influenced by the passage of time since the debts were incurred and the small chance of getting anything better. Nevertheless, our inconsistency shows. Six months ago we all declined similar terms saying firstly we did not want the free trade to establish any precedent that might restrict its freedom of future action, secondly these debts arose out of actual trade (not loans) and are thus distinguishable from former debts and thirdly because we wanted to have all our debts quantified and arranged to put future trade on a safer base.

This ultimatum was put to the Hong merchants and a Petition for help concurrently made to the British government. Now the offer is accepted and the appeal to London has been forgotten. Elliot gave us a strong assurance that our plea would be immediately attended to in London. If an expedition for our relief has been sent from London it is going to find it has wasted its time – a 16,000 mile fool’s errand. The Chinese will ridicule our ultimata in future and our prospects of asking London to right real future grievances has been compromised. We are like the boy who cried ‘wolf’. Sgd “L”

Vol 11 No 38 – 18th September 1838

James Warly Smith, who circulated the community advising his services in March, has established himself in business as a public tea inspector at 5 Dutch Hong. Sgd 14th September 1838

Vol 11 No 38 – 18th September 1838

Shipping arrivals:

  • The Ariel (Dent & Co) arrived from Singapore on 8th September bringing Mrs Ilberry, M/s G T Braine and W Fanning.
  • The Inglis has arrived from Bombay bringing T C Beale.

Vol 11 No 38 – 18th September 1838

London Morning Post – The Bill creating a British Court in China is in committee. Sir George Staunton has proposed in May 1838 that it be amended to require the Chinese government’s approval. If approval is unavailable, he recommends the court be established outside the Emperor’s jurisdiction.

Editor – where is this ‘outside’ place Staunton is talking about? Macau is under Chinese jurisdiction.

Vol 11 No 38 – 18th September 1838

English newspaper, May – A gentleman has arrived in London from China. He says there was no available shipping at Lintin to export his tea cargo. He was quoted freight for delayed shipment at £10 per ton.

Editor – freight to London rose in mid-March to £10 – £10.10.0d per ton

Vol 11 No 38 – 18th September 1838

Viceroy’s Edict of 12th September concerning King Qua’s debts:

“Nanabhoy Framjee insists on receiving interest on his debt of 12% per annum. He demands it is paid together with principal. The Hong merchants have tried to advise Nanabhoy but he is deaf to all instruction. On the contrary, he says Dent and the others are reconsidering their former agreements.

“Now the first purpose of trade is to collect wealth. King Qua has debts and is unable to pay. There is no prospect of repayment by him. His colleagues, mindful of their respectability, have offered to pay off the debts at $100,000 a year. By their offer, money that is irretrievable to creditors may be regained.

“Dent and others have claims of $800,000. They have negotiated an agreed settlement in ten years for principal and two further years for interest.

“Nanabhoy’s group have claims of $300,000. The Hong merchants should counsel Nanabhoy and the Parsees so they may be brought to recognise their unreasonableness. There can be no two plans of settlement.

“In response to this advice, these Parsee creditors complained again, using an untutored translator who has offended me with unbecoming terms. They say ‘we are poor while Dent is rich; our debt is small while Dent’s is large’. They ask for special treatment – a shorter repayment period and interest payable concurrently with the debts.

“In response to their importunate demand I have ordered the Nam Hoi heen to arrest King Qua and force him into agreements with his creditors whereafter he may be released. Do not send me any more dunning petitions.”

(translated by S Fearon, interpreter to the General Chamber.)

Editor – This robust response induced a recognition amongst the Parsees that King Qua would be bankrupted by the government. No good terms can be expected after King Qua is bankrupted. The Parsees then reconfirmed their prior agreement and King Qua was released.

The Viceroy responded:

“In future when you have debts with Hong merchants you must instantly advise me of the details at the end of each trading year so I can take the appropriate action.

“If you let debts accumulate year after year it is your own decision and you must bear the consequences yourselves. In those circumstances I will not again intervene.

“On this occasion I have exceptionally remitted King Qua’s punishment but it is no precedent for the future. You Hong merchants had better not imagine that you can similarly escape in the same circumstances.”

Vol 11 No 38 – 18th September 1838

The Viceroy reports that an Imperial rescript has arrived:

“Tea and silk are necessaries for foreigners. They will henceforth be sold for silver at a fixed price. They may not be exchanged for other commodities. The Hongs are to discuss and report how the prices should be fixed. They will identify those other items that can be bartered for foreign imports. They will instruct the foreigners on the new law. They will report in five days.”

Vol 11 No 38 – 18th September 1838

Letter from the Hongs to the foreign merchants:

To meet the increased expenses that have been forced upon us, the security merchant will in future charge 1 mace per picul on all imported cargo. To make accounting easy we have rounded-up the new fee as follows:

Rice ships
Country ships
Company ships
American ships
$ 700.00
$ 700.00

Vol 11 No 39 – 25th September 1838


  • The Lulworth will sail from Hong Kong for Calcutta on 1st October. For freight visit Captain Graham at 5 Imperial Hong.
  • The Forth will sail from Hong Kong for Singapore and Calcutta on 1st October. For freight visit L de Souza, 5 Danish Hong.

Vol 11 No 39 – 25th September 1838

Local news – the press is no longer silent in Macau. The Portuguese government has commenced publication of its own newspaper – Boletim Official de Governo de Macau. We hope it will be allowed to discuss matters of public interest.

Vol 11 No 40 – 2nd October 1838

Galignani’s Messenger – Matheson, Sheriff of Leith, has died of typhus on 22nd May 1838. He was an upright and capable magistrate.

Vol 11 No 40 – 2nd October 1838

Arrivals and departures:

Hugh H Lindsay has arrived in China per Orestes from Madras.

J N Daniell has arrived per Sir Herbert Compton from Bombay

L de Senn Basel has left per Forth for London.

Vol 11 No 40 – 2nd October 1838

Local news:

  • A mutiny occurred on the John Bull (Ormond) last Sunday evening at Whampoa. MacDonald, 2nd Officer of Castle Huntly, was seriously injured. Captain Gillett and others were instrumental in putting down the riot. We await Captain Ormond’s report on the affair.
  • The tea season is about to open. Foreign buyers must combine to resist the tea men. Differences in quality of the various grades last year were great but prices were all similar. The matter must be discussed in the General Chamber. A Chamber decision would be more respected by the Chinese than individual efforts at negotiation.
  • The Canton Press on Saturday published copies of Elliot’s letters to Palmerston. He told the foreign secretary that the Chinese government is willing to allow the British government to manage its own subjects in China. Elliot spends too much time on the case of M/s Stanford and Mark’s absconding clerk and the affray between Lascars and Chinese in the river. No fear of a stoppage of trade accompanied this fight and the lengthy description of both matters merely shows Elliot has nothing to do.
    Elliot’s aim is solely to restrain and coerce the British community here. The sins against us – the restricted space we are allowed, the ubiquitous corruption, the Hong merchants’ swindling – are unmentioned in his letters.

Vol 11 No 41 – 9th October 1838

Local news:

Sir Frederick Maitland sailed from Taipa roads in his flag ship on 5th October, accompanied by HMS Algerine.

Vol 11 No 41 – 9th October 1838

The Morrison Education Society has considered the propriety of continuing to assist Mrs Gutzlaff’s school in Macau. J C Green proposed, seconded by James Innes, that the Society give no further assistance until the present method of recruiting students has been abandoned.

Vol 11 No 41 – 9th October 1838

Letter received by James Innes (read to the General Chamber):

Steam communication between Suez and Bombay has been extended to Calcutta via Point de Galle by the Semiramis.

It is time to connect Canton to Galle.

One 800 ton steamer with 220 HP engines should provide a quarterly service. £50,000 will pay for the ship and the coal. The vessel will carry cargo, mails and passengers and touch at Singapore both ways. As India increases the frequency of the Galle / Calcutta service, you should increase the frequency on the Canton / Galle line.

I expect this will eventually reduce the sailing time from Canton to London to about 55 days. I wish to be instructed to place this first steamer in service for you.

Sgd Thomas Waghorn, promoter of steam packets.6

Lancelot Dent said he was in India when Waghorn’s original proposals were considered. He knew the idea was not commercially sound. How can the enormous capital costs be recovered from an income of only passengers’ fares and mails? How can the arrivals at Galle be matched to the timetables of steamers on the Calcutta route? The Calcutta line is not yet formally open – until it is, there is nothing to decide. When Calcutta has a steam service, the Bengal government will likely extend it to the Company’s entrepôt at Singapore. That will be a matter for Bengal to fund. Our involvement in Canton will probably be only the connection from here to Singapore and we can adequately fund that route from freight on the existing levels of treasure and opium shipments.

It was then agreed that Waghorn be told his proposal was premature.

Vol 11 No 41 – 9th October 1838

The Editor of Canton Register, John Slade, has sent a letter to Lord Palmerston, 6th October 1838:

The Superintendent of British Trade at Canton is resident at Macau. He is responsible for all British trade, including opium. He is accordingly ex officio a daily breaker of Chinese law. His despatches to you were recently published in the Canton Press. The whole community here fears you will have been misled and I will now put you straight.

In 1834 Napier laid down the principle that a British official would never communicate with the Chinese government through the Hong merchants. Napier’s successor Davis felt that Napier’s death rendered the Commission void. It could not sit at Canton as required. He forewent the £6,000 salary as his public duties were incapable of performance. He left China in January 1835. Davis concurred with Napier that the commission could not act through the Hong merchants. Sir George Robinson continued this policy and never appeared in Canton.

Then Elliot was promoted and the principle was abandoned. He applied through the Hongs for a passport to come to Canton. We all regretted this although Elliot was subsequently addressed as Ling Sze rather than Taipan (as the President of the Select used to be called). Then on 29th November 1837 Elliot addressed us and we learned that he had no positive order to address himself through the Hongs and had merely exercised his own judgement.

Elliot has told you (in a letter dated 2nd June 1837) of an increasing disposition on the part of China to conciliate the English government. This is nonsense. The Emperor recognises no equal in the World. He alone holds universal power. If there really was an intention to conciliate Britain it would be reflected in the settlement of Hing Tai’s debts and King Qua’s debts. The Chinese government would have accepted its duty to settle with us. The evidence against Elliot’s assertion is clear:

  • The Viceroy refused to correspond with Elliot directly.
  • The provincial government has been helpless to obtain settlement of the debts.
  • The British Navy, in the shape of Admiral Maitland, has been grossly insulted. Far from meeting or conciliating him, the government has acted defensively as against an enemy, denying that officer communication and cutting him off from provisions.
  • The Secretary and Chinese Secretary of the Commission were expelled from the city gate on 5th August when they sought to deliver a letter to the Viceroy.
  • The ferry boat Bombay was fired on by the Bogue forts and stopped. When the linguist came on board he said his only object was to prevent Admiral Maitland and his officers from entering the river. He was not concerned to search for opium.
  • The Viceroy’s and Hoppo’s edicts as printed in this paper show no evidence of a wish to conciliate us, indeed we do not recall receiving a conciliatory Edict from them. On the contrary, every Edict contains insulting epithets and insinuations. Are the Imperial orders banishing several traders from China deemed conciliatory?

Every effort of your Lordship’s government has failed utterly and disgracefully. Your management of the Commission has lowered us in the opinion of the Chinese and the rest of the international community here. Your economising on the cost of the Commission has struck at the Chinese secretary and the surgeons who are precisely the people whose work raises our reputation with the Chinese, yet you retain two superintendents whose entire experience has been overseas or in Macau.

The results obtained by the Commission at the city gate bear no comparison with the results which the merchants have themselves obtained at the same venue on 29th July and 29th September this year. Ask yourself ‘what use are they?’

The Commission denigrates us by its presence. The parsimonious Chinese ridicule its expense. I estimate you have spent £100,000 – £200,000 on the Commission so far. I suggest you appoint one of our leading merchants as Consul in Canton as the local government here will only communicate through the Hongs. Give him a deputy, a chaplain, two surgeons and interpreters – that is enough.

The commencement of regular Consular dinners would do much to impress the Chinese and recover our reputation. We pay you nearly £5 millions a year (the tea and silk revenue). If you want to preserve that income you should shift your attention from here to Peking.

I attach copies of my newspaper containing details of proceedings at the city gate mentioned above. Sgd John Slade

Vol 11 No 41 – 9th October 1838

Petition of Robert Thom to the Viceroy, 29th September 1838:

“I have been here several years trading in cotton piecegoods, woollen manufactures and the like. Long-clothes come in 1st, 2nd and 3rd classes. The new clerks of the Hoppo have introduced a new classification. I have protested to the Hongs but they say once the Hoppo records a transaction in his book it becomes immutable. 66s and 72s (singles) longclothes have always been 2nd class.7 The Hoppo’s clerks now say they are 1st class. The Hong merchants know this is wrong but are afraid to say anything.

“The Fairie Queen has just delivered a cargo of 2nd class long-cloth. My shipment was examined by Chow Chiang and his colleague. They did not open any bales but simply assessed them from the packaging to be 1st grade. I opened a bale, cut off a piece and showed it to some Hong merchants. They all agreed it was 2nd class but when the Hoppo is wrong they dare not say anything.”

Editor – Mr Thom prepared his protest to the Viceroy in Chinese and about 10 foreigners went to the Tsing Hai gate on 29th September to deliver it. When they arrived they found the gate shut. They sat down to out-wait the Chinese.

Whilst doing so Mr Tait examined the gate and found he could lift one door off its hinges. The foreigners did so and then rushed in to overcome the soldiers guarding the inner gate. The soldiers were equipped with bamboo poles with iron hooks attached. An American, while endeavouring to restrain one of the party, received a blow on the temple which bled profusely.

Then young Mow Qua appeared with the Chung heep. The petition was delivered to the former on his agreement to hand it to the Viceroy. A complaint of injury (to the American) was made which the Chung heep promised to investigate. The foreigners then left.

Viceroy’s reply:

“This matter has been considered previously. I then ordered that, to avoid disputes, all interested parties should attend the Customs inspection on landing the goods for the purpose of agreeing the appropriate level of duty payable. Thom neglected that chance and now howls, hoping to obtain some rebate of duty.”

Thom’s response:

“I am amazed. In the previous case you told us in all future cases to petition the Hoppo. He says once the transaction is entered in his book it becomes unchangeable. Even mistakes cannot be changed. This is unreasonable.”

Viceroy’s reply:

“The Hoppo previously offered to receive musters of 1st, 2nd and 3rd quality long-cloth and verify them with his chop. Had foreigners taken advantage of this offer they could use the musters to take a position with the Customs clerks who assess duty. Thom did not do so. The fragment of cloth he has sent to me is useless – I have no idea where it came from. Nevertheless, I have asked the Hoppo to review the matter.

“The Hong merchants are again to remind the foreigners to attend professionally to their trade.” Sgd 1st October 18388

Vol 11 No 42 – 16th October 1838

Notice, 1st October – Robert Wilkinson and John Russell Reeves retired from the partnership on 30th June 1838. William Leslie joined on the same day. Sgd Dent & Co,

Vol 11 No 42 – 16th October 1838

A Russian Orthodox monk has been sent by the Tsar into China to assess the military capability of the Chinese army. By bribery, and the artful manipulation of officials’ wives, he has collected much information.

In a letter published in St Petersburg, he describes the army as divided into four parts. First a guard of Manchu, Mongol and Chinese soldiers of 315,200 men; second the army of the conquering banner comprised of 260,000 Manchu and Mongol soldiers; third the army of the green banner comprised of 666,300 Chinese and fourth the army of Tibet and Turkestan comprised of 28,000 men.

Vol 11 No 42 – 16th October 1838

Quarterly Review, April edition on tea farming:

The hopes excited by the discovery of tea in Assam on its cession to Britain have been checked on discovering its uselessness in its present uncultivated state. But with care and skill, and by adoption of Chinese methods, we may in time make tea a colonial production.

Vol 11 No 42 – 16th October 1838

Editorial on changes in the Chinese cabinet:

The retirement of Yuen Yuen from the Privy Council is reportedly due to old age. He is considered sincere and incorruptible and has been president of all the six boards of government. He retires on half-pay. The Empress’s brother, hitherto a powerful man and another cabinet member, has been demoted.

These changes are suspected to connect with the recent appointment of ‘a lady’ to a position of honour in the Imperial palace. We speculate that the control the Empress has over her brother is declining – otherwise how could she tolerate a rival?

The To Kwong Emperor is not a forceful man. He depends on advisers to formulate policy. The Emperor’s brother-in-law was an overbearing man and could not be gainsaid in meetings. It appears conceivable that the Empress’ group has been sidelined and the recently appointed lady (and whoever she represents) is ascending to power in their stead.

Even in the cabinet the men in power are characterised by greed. These changes will encourage courtiers to organise themselves in new ways. Our trade should be unaffected unless the high officials of Canton are required to pay the new people to retain undisturbed enjoyment of their existing perquisites. If that occurs, it is likely the isolated and voiceless foreigners will be seen as a convenient cow to be milked.

In other countries the demotion of a premier and retirement of another cabinet member might occasion shocks that can be felt throughout the Empire. In China the Emperor simply writes his will in vermilion on a paper and it is done. If Viceroy Tang received a note today banishing him to Ili he would unthinkingly pack his knock-down furniture and depart. These occurrences are a timely reminder that the Emperor in China holds all power. At least we can see that he controls the Imperial family

Vol 11 No 42 – 16th October 1838

Edict of the Hoppo Yu, 11th October:

Robert Thom has complained of incorrect duty charged to him on imports of long-cloth. I have brought the cloth to my office and examined it with Thom’s security merchant Sao Qua. There is a great diversity of qualities amongst the bleached cloth and a lesser diversity in the grey cloth. In the shops of Canton I see these long-cloths are sold in four or five qualities whereas they are imported in three classes. It seems there will always be difficulty in grading long-cloth.

As an arbitrary means of achieving a consensus I at first agreed to divide the bleached cloth and the grey cloth into two equal bundles and levy duty on the former at 50/50 1st class and 2nd class and the latter 50/50 2nd class and 3rd class. But this was found to be inadequately indulgent and gave Thom little relief.

I accordingly directed that all the grey cloth be rated as 3rd class. As for the bleached cloth I directed Sao Qua to discuss with the other Hongs and the foreigners and come up with an agreed formula for their future taxation. This produced the proposal that bleached cloth should be rated 50/50 1st class and 2nd class while grey cloth be rated 3rd class.

In fact, having examined the grey cloth I know there are fine and coarse grades. This proposal to charge all grey cloth as 3nd class is accordingly of great advantage to the foreigners.

My responsibility is to protect and collect the national fiscal income. It is also my duty to keep the traders content. The new proposal would result in a loss to the country and a gain to the foreigners. However it is true that prices for long-cloths are unusually low this year.

In consideration of all these variables I order that grey cloth in future be taxed as 3rd class and white cloth be taxed as 70% 1st class and 30% 2nd class without regard to the actual quality. In this way, in future, it will only be necessary to count the number of pieces of white and grey cloth to ascertain the duty payable. When the sale price of long-cloth rises I will reconsider these rates.

Vol 11 No 42 – 16th October 1838

Edict of the acting Nam Hoi heen:

“Opium is a prohibited substance. Several brokers who have opened opium divans have been arrested and punished. Others who refine opium for smoking have also been caught.

“Now I find there is a third class of criminal involved. He pretends to be a policeman and harasses the ordinary people and merchants by entering their houses, supposedly to search for opium but actually to steal money and goods. These people even carry opium and pipes with them and plant them on the innocent in expectation of gain. This is detestable and warrants death.

“The government requires everyone searching for opium to hold a warrant for the purpose. If the army must comply with this requirement (the police runners are actually soldiers), how can these vagabonds harass the people without warrants?

“To combat this third class of vagabonds, the Viceroy has ordered that whenever the abode of an opium broker is discovered, the officer must first petition a senior official to dispatch troops to make the seizure. If the officer fails to report and makes the seizure himself he commits an offence. I now inform the common people that should people come to your houses to search for opium, and they have no warrant, you are to seize and bind them and hand them over to me.”

Vol 11 No 43 – 23rd October 1838

Elliot to J M & Co as agents of the Canton Insurance Office, 19th October:

HMS Larne has completed a search of the Paracels, Indo-Chinese coast and Hainan in nine weeks without finding any trace of the missing brig Antonio Pereira that you insured.

Captain Young, former commander of the Antonio Pereira, assisted in the search. HMS Larne was unable to definitively search the Bombay shoal. Sgd Elliot, Chief Superintendent.

Vol 11 No 43 – 23rd October 1838

Letter of 10th October from the 10 Hongs to the foreigners:

“We have agreed settlement of your King Qua claims. Our Consoo is guaranteeing the debt. This is not a precedent for future cases. Hing Tai Hong went bankrupt by buying dear and selling cheap year after year. He owed over $2 millions. This has never happened before and involved calls on all the surviving Hongs as well.

“King Qua debts are also due to buying dear and selling cheap. If Hong merchants continue like this we will all be ruined.

“We have now made new rules for the Consoo to avoid a repetition. The Consoo will withhold its chop on goods sold too cheaply thus preventing their being sent to the ship. Do not accuse us of delaying the loading of your cargo.

“As regards your imports you must require us to pay cash before delivery and you may not lend money to us for buying cargo. If you lend money it is likely to be inevitably applied to the debts of the Hong’s most pressing creditor – the tea men or the Hoppo – and not necessarily to your account. Any new debts incurred hereafter will not be met by the Consoo.

“Young King Qua, the 5th brother of the licensee, is a hopeless trader. He was responsible for the loss of much of King Qua’s capital. A former President of the Select told old King Qua he should never allow anyone else to run his business. We accordingly remind you that young King Qua is incompetent and you do business with him at your own risk.”

Vol 11 No 43 – 23rd October 1838

Letter from the Parsee merchants to the Viceroy, 5th October:

We come to Canton for business. We are only allowed to trade with Hong merchants. We traded with Tung Cheong Hong. He now owes $40,000 and is unable to repay. Foreigners cannot check the financial ability of Hongs – their trade with domestic suppliers and buyers is unknown to us, but as he is specially licensed by government to trade with us, we trusted him. Wang Chin Kau is the proprietor and his obvious opulence allured us. Please order the Co-Hong to settle our debts.

Viceroy Tang’s reply, 14th October 1838:

Dadabhoy and others have complained against Tung Cheong Hong. I find Hong debts are common. Foreign merchants should settle there accounts with Hongs from time to time. Why do you wait until $40,000 has accumulated before calling for help? This delay has contributed to the extent of your loss.

The licensed trader of Tung Cheong Hong was Lo Fuk Tai. He has already been delicensed. Wang Chin Kau is not mentioned in the official record. I suppose he is an unregistered partner of Lo. Previously Heerjeebhoy complained of Wang Chin Kau. He held a note signed by Wang promising payment. That makes his case quite different to the present claims. It creates no precedent for unsecured claims. Nevertheless, the Hong merchants will investigate the alleged debts of Lo Fuk Tai and how they can be repaid.

Vol 11 No 44 – 30th October 1838

Notes from Medhurst’s voyage along the East Coast on the American brig Huron:

Our vessel was fixed for Ningpo and ports to the north. The owners offered me passage for my missionary work but I was doubtful about their cargo which included opium. This was not for medicinal use but solely for pleasure. Opium smokers are morally culpable for damaging their own lives. Those who help them feed their habit are also culpable. Worst, the Chinese will associate everyone on the ship including myself with the opium trade.

I considered the length of voyage and the opportunity to connect with Chinese. The ship commander was experienced on the China coast and had many contacts. This was the only ship available. I had many books ready for distribution that were in gratuitous storage on the receiving ships at Lintin. If I could not distribute them I had nowhere else to store them and the kindness of the receiving ship captains might evaporate. In that event I would have to send the books back to Singapore or Malacca. My associates want me to spread the Gospel in China and I cannot do that in Canton.

On the other hand every Chinese knows that the foreign ships that come to the east coast are primarily concerned to sell opium. The opium ships must evade the Chinese Customs and invariably anchor far from the coast. The Chinese buyers come off in boats at night to make their purchases. If the deal is interrupted by the authorities everyone runs away. The opium ship captain might spend weeks off shore without sending a boat. The weather is often unsuitable for putting a boat out; or the coast is too rocky to take the chance. On the few occasions a boat is dispatched ashore, the people are necessarily cautious in their dealings with us. Finally, my value to the traders is my knowledge of Chinese language – the cost of a missionary’s berth is the provision of interpreting services. He has to interface between seller and buyer and thus appear inextricably involved in the trade. He is also helping to spread opium even more widely. Every instance of missionaries assisting opium importers strengthens the importer and diminishes the arguments missionaries can use against the trade. However, it cannot be long before the opium trade goes the same way as the slave trade. Those missionaries who have assisted by interpreting can hardly protest against the business.

On these considerations I recognised it was generally undesirable for missionaries to ship on an opium boat.

Almost the entire foreign community at Canton is involved in opium trade. They say if they abandon it, others will quickly take their place. This is the excuse of most of them. It is untenable – whether others take up the business or not, the existing operators are causing misery for profit. They know they are destroying lives but they say that once started in the business it is difficult to withdraw. They also say just a few year’s trade produces enough profit to satisfy most who then vacate their positions and allow others to partake. They should remember to ‘do unto others as they would be done by’. Every day we ask the Lord to ‘not lead us into temptation’. If the merchants became more scrupulous about the sources of their wealth, the trade would diminish. We hope it will soon be recognised that this trade is disreputable.

The Company derives an immense profit from opium auctions. Very little opium is consumed in India, most of it is exported. This enormity is due to the Company directors in London and the Indian government at Calcutta. We know what they are doing and we should publish it day after day – importing opium is preventing our proselytising for Christ. Almost the first thing a prospective convert asks is “why do you missionaries bring opium here illegally; my brother has been poisoned, or my son is ruined, or my wife and young children beg in the streets? You say you care for me but actually you care for profit. Stop the opium imports and I will listen to your preaching”

The fact is that the opium trader is as addicted to his profit as the smoker is to his Drug.9 The Company can stop producing opium and it can exert influence on the native states to do likewise. If Indian supply stopped, Turkey could not replace it. If we cannot get the Company to see its duty, we should protest to the British government. We have a British government representative sanctioned by the Viceroy to stay at Canton and regulate the conduct of Englishmen here. The Viceroy has asked him to stop the trade and he has said it is beyond his power to do so although if some advantage was on offer, he might be encouraged to co-operate. England has much to ask of China but some reciprocity will be expected. The Chinese will never believe we cannot stop the trade – opium grows in British India and finances our government there. We obviously sell opium as a matter of choice. This must change if we want to improve our position here.

Stopping the bulk of the trade would not be difficult. The Company controls half the production and has influence with the Rajahs of the native states that produce the rest. A small naval force on the China coast will prevent sales there. We maintain a much larger naval force on the West African coast to extinguish the slave trade there. We compensated slave owners in British colonies with £20 millions. Slavery is no worse that drug trafficking.

The Chinese spend millions of Pounds Sterling each year on opium, about as much as we spend on tea. It is money they might otherwise use to buy British manufactures. The destabilisation of China’s monetary system (the silver export) caused by opium has already received attention in Peking. One suggestion is the legalisation of opium imports on payment of duty – this would enable the government to learn the quantities, prices and personalities involved and facilitate control.

The Emperor has rejected this plan. He prefers a vigorous proscription. Punishments are already severe yet imports are increasing at a rate of some 4,000 chests per year. If the Chinese cannot solve the problem, neither can the Company or British government. The correct approach is to mobilise public opinion in England – only in that way can the reformed parliament be persuaded to act.

Vol 11 No 44 – 30th October 1838

The French frigate L’Artemise (52) arrived 22nd October from Manila and is anchored at Lintin.

Vol 11 No 44 – 30th October 1838

The Hoppo’s annual proclamation has been posted on the factory walls. Amongst the usual unrepeatable things, it now also proscribes entering the factories for dealings with foreigners.

Vol 11 No 44 – 30th October 1838

London tea sales, July 1838 – Prices have continued to fall. They have incrementally diminished ever since free trade began. Buyers are doubtful of the quantity of the teas on offer.

If this year’s import to Britain exceeds 25 million lbs., selling prices will stay down. In fact it is expected to be some 35 million lbs. The market will only recover its profitability if the amount in storage can be halved.

Vol 11 No 44 – 30th October 1838

An operatic troupe performed in Nam Hoi. Afterwards one of the leading actors named Sin Kew did not return in the troupe’s boat but used a ferry boat. He met four Buddhist priests on board, two of whom turned out to be women.

The ferry boat arrived at destination before dawn and Sin Kew disembarked to eat some congee. The monks also ate. When Sin Kew finished and left, they quickly followed him and attacked him in a quiet place.

The restaurant keeper and his son seemed to suspect some such thing and had followed. They helped Sin Kew fight them off. The two monks escaped but the women were seized and handed over to the magistrate.

Vol 11 No 44 – 30th October 1838

A local beggar has a novel means of soliciting donations from the shopmen at either side of the streets through the factories. His left arm has been amputated and he carries it in his right. It has become blackened with age and the bone protrudes 2” from the dried flesh at the proximal end. He enters shops and puts the withered limb on the counter where it remains while he negotiates the value of his departure. He then moves on to the next shop, etc.

Vol 11 No 45 – 6th November 1838

Editorial – The Company pays its annual dividend by sending part of its Indian revenue to China for loans and trade finance. It should more properly meet the ‘home charges’ by financing Indian exports as it is legislatively responsible for the prosperity of that country.

We should memorialise parliament and other nations’ traders should memorialise their ambassadors at St James’.

Vol 11 No 45 – 6th November 1838

Hoppo Yu has issued instructions to chop-boats (cargo junks used to transport cargo from / to Whampoa):

Many operators of chop-boats are smugglers. They frequently change the name of the registered master to confuse matters. Although there is a Customs House official on every chop-boat he might be negligent. We have already caught the smuggling chop-boat operators Leung Sheung Kiu, Wong Tai Hing, Kwok Ah Kiu and Wong Sheung Hing and punished them.

These chop-boats are built and crewed by the Hong merchants who additionally send their own man on each boat to assist the Customs House official in ensuring compliance with the law. Hong merchants are to use only the boats they have built and crewed themselves. The chop-boat master is to be instructed not to break the law.

Vol 11 No 45 – 6th November 1838

2nd Annual Report of the General Chamber (excerpts):

  • We have met with the Hong merchants and received two letters from them about the opium trade at Whampoa and Canton. They asked us to stop the trade but we declined to do so.
  • We have also fixed charges for securing ships – rice ships pay $1,189.50, a company ship pays $1,000, country and American ships pay $700.
  • The system we recommended in our last annual report has been widely tried but our ships are still delayed awaiting receipt of the grand chop (Port Clearance Certificate). It is now our recommendation that members make the cargo consignee responsible to the ship consignee for payment of duty.
  • We have investigated the inferior quality of the 1837 Malwa and sent our recommendations to the Bombay Chamber.
  • Repayment of the Co-Hong debts has been mutually agreed. We have merely written to the London Association and various British Chambers advising them of the considerations they might urge on the British government in case it chooses to intervene on our behalf.
  • We have urged the Co-Hong to close the grog shops around the factories for the protection of our sailors. The Hongs promised to remove the temptations.
  • The Chamber has employed Mr S Fearon as interpreter on a reasonable salary.
  • The space in front of the factories is often used as a public market and by itinerant hawkers. The Hong merchants have established their own Factory Police Force and say usage of this area is under control.

Vol 11 No 45 – 6th November 1838

The East India and China Trade Association has recommended to government that any future embassy to Peking should be permitted to perform the kow-tow. This is one recommendation we will never agree with. The General Chamber at Canton has sent a strong remonstrance.

Vol 11 No 46 – 13th November 1838

Cash advances on shipments to England are now available at 4/7½d per $1 Spanish. Apply J M & Co, 5th November.

(This advertisement has been running all summer but without an exchange rate until today. JM’s rate is ½d better than the rate of the Company’s Agents.)

Vol 11 No 47 – 20th November 1838

Another newspaper has started in Macau called O Comercial. It is in Portuguese and English.

It says Macau has to pay the costs of administering Timor. $4,000 cash is sent annually to the island and the salaries, etc., of administrators sent direct to Timor from Goa is also paid by Macau. Macau also financially supports the Portuguese factory in Thailand.

Vol 11 No 48 – 27th November 1838

The first distribution from Hing Tai’s estate was paid at the Consoo House yesterday. It was 4% and amounted to about $100,000

Vol 11 No 49 – 4th December 1838

David Jardine has arrived from London per Eliza Stewart.

Vol 11 No 49 – 4th December 1838

The Canton Press has a report that several creditors of Hing Tai and King Qua have written again to Lord Palmerston advising a settlement agreement has been made.

They say they are nevertheless still dissatisfied with the few Hongs available for trade. They expect future debts. They conclude that British intervention is still required as soon as a suitable pretext is available.

Vol 11 No 49 – 4th December 1838

Last Friday, being St Andrew’s Day, Wm Jardine gave a dinner for 60+ men, mostly from Scotland. Several people sang songs, a few gave speeches. Later they all danced to the small hours.

Vol 11 No 49 – 4th December 1838

Letter to the Editor – Chinese government revenue comes from a land tax of 1 – 2% of the produce (not one tenth of the produce as has been asserted in some foreign journals) which can be discharged in grain or silver. Pawned items are taxed; salt is taxed and foreign trade is taxed. Some of this revenue is kept in the province for expenses but the bulk is sent to Peking. My estimate of Chinese revenue, using an exchange rate of 3 Taels (4 ounces of silver) to the Pound Sterling, is:


Land tax in silver

Land tax in grain

Customs duty

Grain kept in Provinces

Money kept in Provinces



31,745,966 Taels

4,230,957 shih10

1,480,997 Taels

31,596,569 shih

28,705,125 Taels


£ equivalent







Chinese taxes are much lighter than ours. It is because the economy is agricultural and production might easily be consumed by the farmer, unknown to government.

The costs of the civil service are low. Most officials get less than £50 pa and a soldier gets only 4d per day. There is no national debt.

In 1829 the Anglo-Chinese College estimated the land tax for each province showing the average rate per mow ( a little less than an acre) is 15 – 100 cash (c. 1d – 6d)11

Vol 11 No 50 – 11th December 1838

London news – The China Courts Bill was discussed in House of Commons. Mr Hawes (seconded by Captain Alsager), speaking for the absent Staunton, said the court could only be established with Chinese consent and this had not been obtained. He asked Palmerston what would happen if a Chinese was a defendant and lost his case. How would the court enforce its award? Was it proposed to use force? Hawes mentioned a fairly recent case of a Chinese being injured by a Lascar on an English ship. The Lascar was arrested by Chinese officials and would not be surrendered.12 The Chinese took the position that their law applied throughout their Empire. This example should adequately establish the need to obtain Chinese approval.

We go to China solely for trade. We should comply with Chinese customs. We should not try to force our customs on China (‘hear, hear’). If this court is established it might jeopardise our commercial relationship. We have been trading in China for centuries without a court. If the Company could manage without it, why does the Free Trade require it? The Americans get by very well, basing their trade on mutual advantage. Is the establishment of the Court connected with our extensive smuggling trade?

Palmerston said the authority for the Bill was contained in the Act of 1833 which provided for criminal and admiralty courts. It appeared from the way that Act was drafted that civil jurisdiction could also be seized. This is the purpose of the Bill under discussion. Staunton’s motion is effectively a motion against the 1833 Act but I will discuss it anyway.

China is an exceptional case. Our attempts to form a diplomatic connection have failed and none of us is going to recommend another embassy. It is said the Company operated no courts in China but nevertheless had authority over British trade. Cases occurred in which the Chinese demanded the surrender of a British subject and this placed the Company in a dilemma – whether to comply, knowing the man might be treated severely, or to oppose and thus encourage lawlessness in the foreign community. The Company opposed, although it risked (and sometimes caused) a stoppage of trade.

England cannot obtain Chinese consent or refusal as the country declines to communicate with us but they clearly expect us to regulate our own community. Sir George Staunton told me foreigners are not subject to Chinese law except in capital cases. There is nothing in the Bill inconsistent with present practice. In his book on China, Sir George notes that a foreign criminal who remains unpunished draws the anger of the Chinese on his nation; if he is punished it draws humiliation on his country. I have also discussed this with Drummond who lived long in China. He says the Chinese will execute whoever is surrendered to them in capital cases, innocent or guilty. They hold the representative of a foreign country responsible for the acts of his countrymen. The old Select Committee was held accountable not only for the acts of sailors on its chartered ships but also the acts of sailors on national ships. Sir George recalled the Terranova case to me.

These authorities establish that surrendering foreigners to Chinese justice is not feasible whereas some legal restraint is necessary and this Bill offers a solution. The Bill only adds civil cases to the criminal and admiralty jurisdictions.

Sir James Graham spoke against the Bill. The Chinese might take advantage of it as Plaintiffs but will never submit to come before it as Defendants. The court will thus become another hardship on the foreign trade (‘hear, hear’). If we are to have a court we must have a properly qualified judge to run it, not a consul or Superintendent. Palmerston has quoted Staunton in support of the Bill but Staunton is opposed to it. The latest advices from Elliot (July 1838 according to Palmerston but he has actually received despatches dated March 1838) suggested the Chinese were trying to reconcile themselves with the British. This court would stir things up again just when they are settling down although Elliot said in September 1837 that he could obtain Chinese approval for the court. The main advantage of the Bill is the repeal of the tonnage dues on British shipping. The other supplementary clauses are also progressive – it is just the court itself that is a problem.

C Lushington and Robert Inglis both spoke against the Bill. Captain Alsager noted the Court claimed jurisdiction over only British subjects. Most disputes were between Britons and Chinese. None of those could be brought before the Court. He opposed the Bill.

Hawes then proposed Clause 1 (the clause creating civil jurisdiction of the court) be withdrawn.

The Solicitor General thought, with 2,000+ British subjects at Canton in the trading season, it was imperative that some form of judicial authority be established for good order.

Palmerston said as the House appears doubtful he would agree to postpone the Bill until the next session.

Editor – readers will be astonished at Palmerston’s assertion there is only one Superintendent of British Trade at Canton. What does A R Johnstone do since 1835 for his £1,500 per annum?

Vol 11 No 51 – 18th December 1838

24th November 1838 – J M & Co’s advertisement for exchange at 4/7½d per dollar does not appear this week. The Company’s Finance Committee continues to advertise for remittances to England on the same terms as previous but the exchange rate for Bills on Calcutta is changed to 212 Current Rupees per $100.

Vol 11 No 51 – 18th December 1838

Elliot has held a meeting in the hall of the British factory. He is here incognito as the flag is not hoisted. It was mainly attended by Americans.

Elliot is so anxious to establish direct communication with the Viceroy that he proposes to assert his ability to prevent the recent riot, remove those ferry boats anchored off the factories and prevent opium smuggling. He proposes to trade these services for the Viceroy’s acceptance of him and to enhance his reputation with other Canton Provincial government officials.

Instead of representing us he intends to represent the Chinese coast-guard. His commission contrarily says he will promote and protect British trade.

Elliot’s intentions are in direct opposition to the wishes of the community as expressed in the General Chamber’s opinion of 14th October 1837. Elliot is asserting new powers whereby he claims to be able to control the owners of the ferry boats. If Elliot goes on like this the Viceroy will ask him to remove the opium fleet at Lintin. He will think ‘if Elliot can do the one thing, he can do the other.’

Elliot’s status can be distinguished from the resident consuls of America, Netherlands and France in that he gets a third or a half of his salary paid by the East India Company. He is as much a servant of the Company as a representative of his country.

Bengal opium is a monopoly of the Company and is manufactured almost exclusively for the China market. Elliot should be encouraging the trade.

The honour of being the first boat to commence our new smuggling style up the river belongs to the American-flag boat Coral.

Vol 11 No 51 – 18th December 1838

Elliot’s published address to the foreign community at Canton:

“The cause of both the recent threat against James Innes and the attempted execution in the square is our use of small boats to smuggle on the river (see the Opium chapters). It caused a riot in the square and a direct threat against our persons and property. It has caused an interruption of the legal trade.

“I require the owners of small boats to cease smuggling within the next three days. If they do not, I will liaise with the Viceroy and recommend actions to bring this abuse to an end. I need your support and co-operation. I am the only national representative at Canton whose duties are solely public.”

Vol 11 No 51 – 18th December 1838

Elliot’s proclamation to the owners of all British small craft, 18th December:

“If your boat has ever been involved in opium smuggling you should take it out of the river in three days and not again allow it to return. I warn all Britons who smuggle opium in the river that should any Chinese be killed as a result of your defending your illegal trade, you will be liable on conviction under English law (the proposed criminal court) to capital punishment as if the offence had occurred in England.

“The British government will provide no protection to British small boat owners who are caught smuggling by the Chinese. You are all reminded that resisting Chinese officers in the performance of their duties of search and seizure will render you liable to the Chinese government for the consequences, the same as it would if you were in England.”

Vol 11 No 52 – 25th December 1838

Petition of the Glasgow Chamber to the Queen, June 1838:

There is a progressive diminution in our foreign trade concurrent with a depression in our domestic market that is causing a decline in national revenue. We are now excluded for several markets in which we used to trade. Foreign states are breaking their treaties with us, insulting our traders and restricting our trade. The loss of international respect for our commerce is due to the peculiar system of diplomacy we have followed in the last few years (an inference against Palmerston).

That policy has compromised Turkey as an independent country and nullified its use as a buffer protecting eastern Europe. We have abandoned Circassia and exposed our Indian empire to Russian conquest. We have allowed Persia to be reduced to a Russian dependency. British merchants are now excluded from the lucrative Black Sea trade. We permit the Dutch to evade the terms of our 1824 treaty with them and impose illegal duties on our exports to Java. We have tolerated the creation of a French colony in Africa, contrary to treaty. We have allowed European countries to exclude our manufactures by high duties in breach of our commercial treaties. Our fishing fleet in Newfoundland and around our own coast must compete with foreign fishermen. We have permitted the destruction of ancient Poland. Our claims on Greece have been compromised. We also have difficulties with Spain, Portugal, America, Brazil and Mexico.

Please use your influence to recover the respect we are due and protect your merchants and shipowners. The world acts as though our power had diminished. This is due to the supine nature of our foreign policy. We implore you to obtain redress and maintain our rights by a display of national vigour against any country that seeks to infringe on them.

Editor – this is one of the most important documents of our time. 459 Glaswegian firms and individuals – Tories, Whigs and Radicals – signed this Petition. They recognise the importance of the facts and have abandoned partisan beliefs for the national benefit. This is a remarkable development in our commerce. The cause of the decline in the British economy has been the indifference of the political leadership and the failure of London merchants to unite and lobby for our interests. There is as yet no Chamber of Commerce in London but one is in prospect. The political executive is worthless and must be advised by commercial associations. It’s a shame the Glasgow merchants did not mention China – the ‘fan kwai’ must also be protected.

Vol 11 No 52 – 25th December 1838

The Hoppo has issued an order to block all the doors at the back (north) of the factories that give on to the streets behind. This is to force foreigners and ‘traitorous natives’ to use the main entrances at the front, facing the square, where they may be more readily observed.13

Vol 11 No 52 – 25th December 1838

The Nam Hoi heen appointed Dr Parker for a consultation at How Qua’s Hong yesterday – he has a skin infection of the back and loins. We hope this is the beginning of official recognition of our philanthropic natures.

Vol 11 No 52 – 25th December 1838

Editorial – Elliot’s initiative on the ferry boats is a disaster. The Hong merchants will say if he has the power to remove the smuggling boats from the river, he must have the power to remove the receiving ships at Lintin. Trade remains stopped although many of the ferries have obtained passes and left the river.

The boat owners invested in these ferries because they provide a useful service. They could not have guessed that Elliot would object to them. They were always prepared to submit to orders of the local government but did not expect to be penalised by their own representative. Some have now launched claims on him for compensation. Their boats will remain in the river until he acknowledges and accepts the claims.

Elliot calls himself Chief Superintendent. Since December 1836 the office of Chief Superintendent has been abolished and he is actually Chief of Commission.

The English diplomat Sir Henry Wotton (1568 – 1639) long ago defined an ambassador as ‘a man sent abroad to lie for his country.’ Captain Elliot disagrees. He takes the position that truth is more important than national interest. The Canton Press (but not the Canton Register) reported Elliot as saying he held orders to reprobate opium smuggling on the river. No-one has seen his orders. Orders must be verified before they can be obeyed. He claims to hold the same powers as the old Company supercargoes. Those powers were for the protection and preservation of the Company’s monopoly and created a licensing system for access to Indian and China trade. Unlicensed traders in China trespassed on the Company’s monopoly and were at risk of deportation. These powers expired with the Company’s monopoly. The Superintendent of our Free Trade cannot conceivably have similar powers. He certainly cannot deport until the British court is established. He cannot license our China trade.

Elliot’s position seems to be that he will tolerate the Lintin smuggling trade, because it is less amenable to Chinese coast-guard action, but not the river smuggling trade which is clearly within Chinese jurisdiction and ability to regulate. If he really is empowered to give orders concerning the river trade he must equally be empowered to give orders concerning the Lintin trade and the east coast trade – they are all within the jurisdiction of the Emperor at international law.14 Elliot is unconcerned for our Indian Empire or our China traders. He is impeding our China trade and his act will tend to drive it into the hands of foreigners.

Elliot was responsible for Maitland moving the British squadron up to Chuen Pi for ‘ease of communications’ with Canton. This movement disconcerted the Chinese who saw it as a hostile act. Now he is assisting the Chinese to the detriment of our trade. He has no coherent policy.

He claims jurisdiction in cases of Britons in China murdering foreigners. This is an extension of the Act in the 9th of George IV which only allowed for British murderers of Britons overseas to be tried in England. Elliot should publish the authorities under which he acts.

Consider the 1809 case when a crewman of the Cumberland stabbed a Chinese to death in Tailor Street. He managed to get back to his ship undiscovered and confessed his crime. Trade was briefly stopped but later recommenced on the Company’s undertaking to subject him to English law in England. He was delivered to the law officers there but discharged as they felt they had no jurisdiction over his crime.

We agree that smuggling should be controlled but it is a problem for the local government not for us. It is not Elliot’s duty or the General Chamber’s duty to prevent smuggling. We proposed a strict search of boats at the Bogue a year ago but the Hongs said only the government could do it. We suspect the Hongs were really concerned for their own responsibility – if opium was stopped from entering the river in ferry boats, it would have then been transferred to the ships to introduce for which the Hongs were indubitably responsible. Indeed it is well-known that both English and American ships introduced opium at Whampoa last year. The Hongs do not secure ferry boats but they do secure ships. Thus a move against ferry boat smuggling might have resulted in an increase in ship smuggling.

The only foreigner known to have provided service to the Chinese in recent years is Billy Magee, the American who served against the Chinese pirates and was distinguished by the Canton government. We did not expect Elliot to join him; to provide services against those he is supposed to protect. After he has got rid of the ferry boats, he will probably be ordered to deport Jardine, Dent, Turner, Dadabhoy and the other banished Englishmen. We recommend he instead deport the Company Agents whose financial operations here are diminishing our profits.

We have just learned from a reliable source that Elliot sent a petition to the Viceroy on Sunday through the Hong merchants. This has disgraced the character of British subjects here. We hear he has offered to command a cruiser to eject the ferry boats from the river. This would be well outside his instructions and more in the nature of ‘service to a foreign prince.’

Sir George Staunton has told us that the operation of all Chinese law is suspended for foreigners except those offences that prescribe awards of capital punishment. Let the Emperor kill his subjects for mere indulgence in opium – he will simply cause a popular revolt against his rule. The freedom of Englishmen should not be sacrificed to the laws of this Empire.

Vol 11 No 52 – 25th December 1838

The General Chamber committee has met with the Hongs and told them ferry boats are imperatively needed to carry passengers and mails between Macau, Whampoa and Canton. The committee has proposed to appoint only ‘fit and proper’ persons to manage each boat and has requested the Hongs to obtain government consent.

Vol 11 No 52 – 25th December 1838

Letter to the Editor – In August this year the ferry Bombay was fired on by the Bogue Forts. The Bombay is one of our foremost smuggling boats. On this occurrence, Elliot instigated Maitland to move his ships up to Chuen Pi and demand satisfaction, which we hear was obtained (the Admiral at the Bogue reportedly apologised). The Chinese will assuredly view this action as our government’s protection of smuggling.

Now Elliot is ordering all the ferries away – it is contradictory. Once he completes one chore for the Chinese they will ask him to attend to others. I have just looked again at the Order-in-Council of 9th December 1833 containing the Superintendent’s instructions. Is he obeying his orders? Sgd No Boat Owner, 24th December 1838

Vol 11 No 52 – 25th December 1838

Edict of Viceroy Tang to the people:

Hwang Tseo Tsze (Cantonese – Wong Jerk Jee, President of the Sacrificial Court) memorialised the Emperor that all opium smokers should be executed. The Emperor has circulated his recommendation and the responses are all favourable. We are now finalising the new law. When the yellow rescript arrives it will be put into force. There can be no future profit in opening opium shops. Those who do will lose their wealth as well as their lives.

I feel pity for you – you are taking the wealth of China and giving it to the foreigners and in return you risk the loss of your lives and property. Do not be fooled by the foreigners into continuing this trade. Do not use your money to buy death. Awake to your danger.

Vol 12 No 1 – 1st January 1839

Notice, 29th December 1838 – The General Chamber invites tenders from owners of ferry boats over 25 tons for the conveyance of letters under a licence of the Chinese government. Successful applicants must guarantee to the Chamber they agree to the forfeiture of their boats if caught smuggling. This will be achieved by the applicants providing a completed ‘Transfer of Ownership’ form attached with their tender so the boat may be transferred automatically to the Chamber’s ownership if it is to be confiscated.

Each successful applicant must give us three months notice of his intention to withdraw his ‘transfer of ownership.’ Applicants must also agree to conform with any regulations the Chamber makes for operation of ferries.

Vol 12 No 1 – 1st January 1839

Notice to British subjects from Elliot, 31st December 1838:

The Canton government has agreed to correspond direct with me under the seal of the Kwongchow foo. There is public misunderstanding on the means of communication. I wish it to be known that the Viceroy will himself break the seals on my letters.

I attach correspondence with the local government concerning small boats smuggling opium in the river. Smuggling has been deeply mischievous to British trade and has disgraced our national character. It has exposed all our interests to jeopardy. I felt it is my duty to separate the British government from any connection with smuggling. I will use all means in my power to end smuggling and I am pleased to have received indications of support from the general body of the community.

I am also publishing part of my instructions to correct any misunderstanding as to the nature and extent of my powers. I remind the British community that the 9th clause of the Act deals with remedies they have against me by making representations to Foreign Secretary Palmerston which I will forward for them on their behalf.

(A copy of the orders and laws relating to the Superintendent’s powers is reproduced.)

Elliot’s letter to the Viceroy:

A dangerous state of affairs has developed on the river due to smuggling in small boats. It is potentially a catastrophe. On 18th December the British government required its nationals engaged in small boat smuggling to leave the river in three days. It has not been able to gauge the extent of compliance with its order. I request the Viceroy, through the Kwongchow foo and Kwong heep, to signify his pleasure. I have withdrawn British protection from small boat operations in the river.

Reply of Prefect Chu and officer Han of Kwongchow foo, 26th December:

We have received an order of the Viceroy. He says you have come to control the British, repress depravity and extirpate evil. We suppose you have commensurate powers. How can you have difficulty expelling the ferry boats from the river?

But as you expressly tell the Viceroy you oppose this smuggling, it appears you understand your duty and he orders us, the prefect and commandant of Canton, to liaise with you. Once the boats are removed, trade will be re-opened as usual.

Vol 12 No 1 – 1st January 1839

Letter from the Hongs to General Chamber concerning the proposed licensing of ferry boats by the Chamber, 26th December:

The Viceroy approves a few decked ferry boats being licensed but he sees the Chamber makes no mention of routine searches of ferries. If they are not searched, the crafty foreigners will soon use them for smuggling again. The Chamber has not thought through the matter carefully. The Hoppo will liaise with you on the appropriate measures to take.

Edict of the Hoppo on ferry boats:

The law allows foreigners to use open boats which have been issued passports. The foreigners now ask for decked boats with sails to protect them from wind and rain. This may be allowed. They are permitted to license up to 5-6 decked and masted boats. These may not carry flags but the sails will be inscribed with information. When they are prepared I will issue a passport to each and a form for presentation at the first Customs House en route in case searching is required. This search form will be surrendered at the first Customs House and a new one issued for the next Customs House, etc. If the foreigners find they are delayed or importuned for money at any of the stations they may ask me to investigate and punish. If the foreigners themselves evade any Customs Houses en route they also will be punished. Unlicensed boats will be fired on by the forts and cruisers. The small open boats that have historically plied between Canton and Whampoa may continue to do so. The large boats permitted by this regulation may not remain at Canton – they should discharge, load and instantly depart.

Chamber’s response, 28th December 1838:

Apart from the arrangements which we previously notified, we think it should be incumbent on the boat master, on arriving at or leaving Canton, to have the Customs officers examine passenger’s baggage and other articles on board. As regards the Customs Houses along the river we suggest a similar arrangement to that employed for H M cutter (the sloop Louisa) whereby should any cruiser wish to examine the boat, it should approach and await the master inviting the officers to board and search. In this way smuggling can be prevented while the boat’s voyage is not delayed. Sgd H H Lindsay,

Vol 12 No 1 – 1st January 1839

Petition of the Parsees to Viceroy Tang, 25th December:

Heerjeebhoy Rustomjee and others wish to close their affairs, send off their ships and go home. The Hong merchants have stopped trade and prevented our departure. We protest our trade is stopped because of the offence of others. The schooners that travel on the river all day are nothing to do with us.

Viceroy Tang’s reply, 27th December:

The Chinese Empire is solicitous of foreigners but some ignorant rogues use trickery to deluge our country with smuggled opium. This makes us indignant. Just a few days ago we seized opium from Crawford’s ship Belhaven. Obviously other ships carry it as well. The Hong merchants have stopped trade while they investigate the smuggling. There are still many small foreign boats in the river – probably they are being kept here for illegal purposes. I have liaised with Elliot to get rid of the smuggling boats. When they have all left, the Hong merchants will report whether a foreigner is good or not and whether his ship carries contraband. If they are straight-forward honest traders they will enjoy trade. If they are smugglers we will oppose them. Tell the Parsees accordingly.

Vol 12 No 1 – 1st January 1839

There are poems appearing around Canton containing inferences that Viceroy Tang is involved in smuggling.

They refer to four fast boats that his son partly owns. The boy spends his time on dice and women.

Vol 12 No 1 – 1st January 1839

Editorial – it is reprehensible of the Chamber to volunteer pledges against smuggling. In former days the Company successfully resisted Chinese requests for bonds that Company ships were not carrying opium. The Chinese should be satisfied with a mere declaration of our honour.

Vol 12 No 1 – 1st January 1839

There was a seizure of sycee on 28th December. It belonged to some Chuan Chow men who have long brought large sums of money to Canton for trade. The river police know them well. Some hoodlum reported their boat to a Customs House. He said they were going to the foreign shipping at Whampoa for business taking sycee in boxes marked with western writing.

One of the Chuan Chow men’s supporters told the officials that the sycee was for purchase of cotton in Canton but the Customs officers were not satisfied. The account books and letters found on board were seized. The four men escorting the treasure were first arrested then released and finally the silver was returned to them.

This should be a warning to the ferry boats. The system of bonding will attract all the petty criminals to inform against them in the hope some small infraction of the law will result in the boat being confiscated and broken-up.

Vol 12 No 1 – 1st January 1839

The Canton Press says we oppose Elliot because he is opposed to the opium trade. We merely asked how Elliot can take action against the small boats without implicating the opium trade as a whole. The Emperor is against both the inside and outside opium trades. The outside trade has been driven from Kum Sing Mun to Hong Kong.

In 1823 the Calcutta ship Pascoa was prevented departing Whampoa because Matheson’s Merope, an expelled opium ship, was still lying at Lintin. It was not until the Merope departed to Calcutta to change her name that the Pascoa was cleared.

The Canton Press says the Lintin smuggling trade is not responsible for Kwok Sze Ping’s recent execution in Macau or the strangling of Ho Yiu Kong in front of the factories. It says the outside and inside trades are completely separate. It should be apparent that if there is no large store of opium outside, there could be no stream of opium smuggled up the river.

The majority of British merchants have completely refrained from the river smuggling in boats.15 British and American traders contrarily smuggle opium on their ships going up to Whampoa and sell it there. These ships are secured by the Hong merchants and their names are well known.

The fact is Elliot and the Chamber have conspired with the local government and the Hongs against the independence of the foreign trade. It was an axiom of the Company never to assist the Chinese government. China makes and enforces its own laws and requires no help from us. Elliot’s problem is self-created. He has betrayed British interests by voluntarily denouncing the activities of some of us to the Chinese. All of us are endangered by his action. A R Johnstone is not supporting Elliot – he has remained at Macau throughout.16 And it remains our position that Elliot has no power to do as he has done.

The river smuggling in small boats began shortly before the Hoppo’s first edict against it in June 1837. It did not become an important part of our trade until a few months later. Elliot has received no new instructions since then. He must lack the powers he now claims to have.

We wish to refer to an old case to illustrate the attitude taken by former leaders of our community, based on the evidence of Walter S Davidson to the House of Lords in 1830. Davidson gave evidence as follows:

“A ship was consigned to me with $1.6 millions of opium.17 It was the most valuable cargo ever received on one ship. The captain notified me from Whampoa that the Chinese were acting strangely and two of his officers had been taken ill immediately they ate their meal (made from Chinese provisions just supplied). He suspected they had been poisoned. I collected some boats and men from the country traders in Macau and approached President Urmston of the Select telling him my ship carried £400,000 cargo that was likely to be seized by the Chinese Customs and in its defence lives might be lost. He said he was not allowed to involve the Company in the opium trade but in these special circumstances he would attempt to bluff. With that I sailed to Whampoa with my fleet of boats and found the Chief Officer had died and the second officer remained seriously ill. All the men were excited but there was no evidence that the Chinese were about to attack. I called surgeons from other ships to perform at autopsy on the dead officer and it was established that he had not been poisoned. I maintained defences for 24 hours and the Chinese saw we were prepared and never attempted to board.”

Vol 12 No 2 – 8th January 1839

Correspondence concerning the British Court in China:

  • Sir George B Robinson to Palmerston 1st July 1835 – British trade is extensively with native traders. The idea that a legal basis to trade is required for the settlement of disputes has not arisen. If it did, we have no means to enforce contracts. If such a system was commenced it might damage local faith in the honour of the British trader. The Act to regulate free trade in China gave the Superintendents the surviving powers of the old Select Committee. In fact the Select never interfered in commercial disputes between free traders. All the free traders held licences from the Company in India. If the Chinese were upset, it was open to the Select to suspend a trader’s licence and assert no responsibility for his subsequent trade. Any difficulties that arose were dealt with case-by-case.
    The proposed court has only criminal and admiralty jurisdiction. The kinds of commercial disputes that might arise here are all civil matters. Even if the court’s jurisdiction is extended to civil cases, we do not know how to establish it.
  • Sir George B Robinson (on Louisa at Lintin18) to Palmerston, 25th March 1835 – The trading system at Canton provides no alternatives for us. We either completely submit to the Chinese or we go away. Cases of murder cause the most anxiety. An efficient police force at Whampoa would help but we can do little to protect ourselves from this risk. Only an outside anchorage can protect us. If a Chinese is killed we must surrender a body in compensation. If we fail we are banished as occurred to the Company in 1821-22 season. The Chinese officers can send us orders at any time but we can only respond through the Hong merchants.
  • Sir George B Robinson to Palmerston, 12th January 1836 – One of the Hong merchants, Poon Hoi Qua, has requested my assistance in recovering an 1830 debt from a Parsee named Hormusjee. This is just to let you know that the Chinese do avail themselves of our authority occasionally. Hormusjee became indebted years ago but recently left China without paying. The amount of his debt was agreed with the Select. His friend Dadabhoy said Hormusjee had gone home to collect the money he owes and Poon Hoi Qua believed him. Now Hormusjee has not returned and Dadabhoy is also about to leave China. Poon Hoi Qua says ‘As you are the manager of the British trade please have Dadabhoy and Hormusjee settle their debt’. I have told him his debt is too old but I will make enquiries. I wrote to Dadabhoy Rustomjee that he was security for Hormusjee and the debt remained unpaid. I asked him to consider our commercial reputation here and settle. Dadabhoy says he is the leader of the Parsee community. Hormusjee became destitute and was sent home. He says he only agreed to distrain Hormusjee’s assets in settlement of Poon’s debt but no assets have been found. I (Robinson) have asked him to reconsider.
  • Sir George B Robinson (on Louisa at Lintin) to Palmerston, 29th January 1836 – The Chinese accept our control of British subjects but do not permit our residence at Canton. If we were at Canton it could only be under the detailed and dishonourable control of the Hong merchants.
  • Sir George B Robinson (on Louisa at Lintin) to Palmerston, 30th January 1836 – The Chinese are pleased at our presence as the shopkeepers etc., believe we will secure their debts due from British traders.
  • Sir George B Robinson to Palmerston, 12th October 1836 – We can go to Canton only by force. If we do it will be a source of evil not good. We will be continually embarrassed. They permit us the full exercise of our powers only outside the river.

Vol 12 No 2 – 8th January 1839

Notice – the connection between Russell Sturgis & Co of Canton and Russell & Sturgis of Manila is ended. John W Perit has retired from our businesses.

Warren Delano Jr continues in charge of the independent Canton firm.

George P Russell, Henry P Sturgis, Russell Sturgis and Josiah Moore are partners of the Manila business. Dated 1st January 1839.

Vol 12 No 2 – 8th January 1839

The Viceroy has issued general search warrants permitting his officials to make searches everywhere in the city of Canton. The owners of tea warehouses have protested the interruption of their business.

A few arrests have been made in Hop Shing Painters’ Shop in Old China Street. The occupants were alleged to be opium smokers.

Vol 12 No 2 – 8th January 1839

The Nam Hoi and Poon Yu heens have published ten observations on opium by the scholar Koo King Shan:

“Opium is said to raise the spirits and prevent weariness. At first people smoke it as a fashionable thing. Afterwards they discover they are addicted to it. They have to pay excessively to continue the habit for it costs more than silver. They grow thin and sleep excessively.

“The rise of the spirit is unnatural – it is like repeatedly trimming a wick – it uses up the oil more quickly. Young smokers neglect to raise a family leaving no posterity. Middle-aged people shorten their lives with it. The addict’s business is neglected – he cannot both smoke and trade.

“I know a man from Anhwei who sold his wife and children to maintain his habit ……” etc.

Vol 12 No 2 – 8th January 1839

The Hong merchants are allowing ships they have secured to obtain their Port Clearance Certificates and depart but unsecured ships (those with opium cargoes) cannot remove until the Hongs conclude negotiations for their handling with government.

The General Chamber has protested to the government and demanded Hong merchants, commencing with How Qua, be obliged to secure all shipping by rotation.

Vol 12 No 2 – 8th January 1839

Viceroy Tang to the Hongs, 25th December:

“Elliot says the stoppage of trade has followed the discovery of one ferry boat carrying opium. He complains that all the innocent have been punished with the guilty. He has ordered the smuggling boats away but is unsure if they have obeyed. He requests for an order of the Kwongchow foo and heep to expel the boats to evidence his authority. Then he offers to unite his own authority with ours in dealing with future cases. When foreigners are caught breaking the law, he says it will be for China to deal with them and England will not interfere as they have all been clearly warned.

“He proposes to send the requested Edict to London to preserve himself from the censure of his own government. He has not often written to the Viceroy as it requires the character ‘pin’ on the envelope. Because this stoppage of trade affects us all, he has affixed the character ‘pin’ although his countrymen will deplore his act.

“He says the smuggling by Innes involved that man alone and his coolies Liu Ah Ying and Chin Ah Wo knew nothing. Innes called them to the riverbank and employed them to carry away some treasure boxes – they had no way of knowing that the boxes actually contained opium. He beseeches the Viceroy to release and pardon them.19

“On receiving this petition from Elliot I note he is sent by his King to manage the British barbarians. How can he have been instructed and not given the necessary powers to enforce his will? Men lack confidence in him and thus he comes to me for reinforcement. Is it so difficult to remove the boats from the river? Now he writes saying both China and England oppose smuggling and he wishes it to end. This wish encourages me to grant his petition. The Kwongchow Foo and Heep will provide him with a sealed Edict as authority to expel the boats. This is not a precedent. All future orders will be given to Elliot through the Hongs. When he succeeds in removing all the smuggling boats, trade will be reopened.

“Elliot is misinformed about the use of the word ‘pin’. Only Kings need not use it. All others are legally obliged to affix ‘pin’ on their communications. As regards the two accomplices of Innes, they both told the magistrate that they knew they were receiving opium.20 It is inappropriate for the Superintendent to request mercy for them. The courts of China will determine any mitigatory facts.”

Vol 12 No 2 – 8th January 1839

Editorial – the Canton Press says we have accused Elliot of causing a stoppage of trade. We did not. We said he prolonged the stoppage by his determination to remove the ferry boats from the river. We agree that the mercantile community of itself was unable to remove the boats. When Elliot ordered the removal, their owners delayed departure of the boats as they wished to make claims on Elliot for compensation. That is how Elliot extended the delay.

The Canton Press also attributes the riot at the factories to the importation of opium. It was nothing to do with opium import, it was merely an aspect of the inside opium trade.

Captain Elliot informed us all that trade was reopened on 1st January. Does he not know there are 17 (opium) ships at Whampoa which have not been secured and are accordingly unable to deliver their cargoes? How Qua has despatched the Falcon, General Palmer and Indus which are loaded with his own teas. He is loading the Westminster and Alexander Baring and they will soon depart. What is to prevent his soliciting another stoppage of trade once his own cargoes have been shipped off and obtaining a commercial advantage over us?

We have heard that 9 ferry boats are to be licensed.

Vol 12 No 3 – 15th January 1839

The police are widely accused of keeping small amounts of opium in their pockets and pretending to discover it whilst searching individuals and premises. Many inhabitants of Canton have closed the gates to their streets and require the police to submit to search before they will be admitted. A new wooden gate has been erected on the bridge across the Creek from the factories for the same reason.

Vol 12 No 3 – 15th January 1839

The commanders of the 17 opium ships at Whampoa that cannot obtain security merchants (and thus cannot open hatches and commence trade) have gone en masse to the city gate and submitted a petition to the Viceroy complaining against the Hong merchants. Those merchant- commanders have now received the Viceroy’s reply, dated 10th January 1839:

“The Hong merchants will not secure some ships at Whampoa because opium is being imported there and they are unsure if, by securing those ships, they will become involved in opium smuggling.

“If the foreigners would cease breaking the laws, the Hong merchants would not fear to secure their ships.

“How can the confused foreigners blame this matter on the Hong merchants? The Hong merchants require foreigners to enter a bond giving the assurance, with their financial responsibility, that no opium is imported on their ships. Once the foreigners settle the terms of this bond with the Hongs and sign it, the ships will be secured.”

Vol 12 No 3 – 15th January 1839

How Qua has allowed some relaxation concerning the bond. He will commend the government to allow unsecured ships at Whampoa to work cargo once the captain makes a declaration that his vessel carries no opium (so far as he knows) and that he will try to prevent his ship being implicated in opium smuggling. If the system is workable, How Qua and Mow Qua say it may be extended to the next season.

Vol 12 No 3 – 15th January 1839

The first dividend (4%) on King Qua’s debts was paid at the Consoo House yesterday.

Vol 12 No 3 – 15th January 1839

Captain Ho Ko Chung, commanding the Chinese squadron at Hong Kong, has petitioned the Viceroy as follows, 10th January 1839:

“A small foreign ship with an awning over her aft deck (a schooner – likely one of the banned ferries) is cruising off western Hong Kong between Apleichau and Green Island. I have sent boats to constantly observe her and prevent native fishermen etc., from contacting with her.

“Ships that enter the river and go to Whampoa are trading ships. Ships that loiter in the outer waters are smuggling ships. This is clearly a smuggling ship.

“If this ship is attacked by pirates and robbed, the foreigners will assuredly protest and routinely inflate the real value of their claim.

“Please publish an Edict so the Hongs can tell the foreigners not to allow their ships to wander around, otherwise they risk being fired upon.”

Viceroy’s reply:

“I order the warjunks to drive this ship away. Should she resist, open fire and destroy her. The foreigners ignore my determination and continue in their old ways. The Hongs will again impress on them that ships coming to China for trade must enter the river and anchor at Whampoa.

They will be examined and give a bond that they will not smuggle. Then their trade may commence. If they bring opium or other contraband they will be driven out and not allowed to sell their contraband in the outer waters. If they disobey they will be attacked by our warjunks.”

Vol 12 No 4 – 22nd January 1839

Public letter from James Innes to Elliot, 15th January 1839 (published at the former’s request):

“The Canton Register of 8th January 1839 says you wrote to the Viceroy saying I alone am responsible for smuggling opium. You say I misled my servants into carrying chests of opium by telling them they were chests of treasure. I now ask you to consider if your advice to the Viceroy was authentic or not?”

Elliot’s reply, 15th January 1839:

“After your departure from Canton (to Macau), I learned your servants were still imprisoned. As you neglected them, I felt it my duty to interpose on their behalf. I have now received a private assurance that they will be treated leniently.

“I am not in control of the Canton Press and was concerned to see the vulgar way in which your name was introduced as revealed in your letter. I attach extracts of my official records for your information. You may not publish them without the approval of Palmerston.”

Innes to Elliot, 16th January 1839:

“Your extracts from official records do not contain the sentences which I object to. I conclude they are not authentic. In fact I can hardly believe that a British representative would denounce a British subject to a Viceroy who had just given irrefutable proof, in his actions against the Thomas Perkins, that he takes action without checking his information (see the Opium chapters). Neither can I believe that you would denigrate my name without giving me a chance to answer the charges you make.

“At the time you published my name to the Viceroy on 23rd December, the consignees of Thomas Perkins had already been acquitted of any wrong-doing. I left Canton on 16th December and Talbot (the American consignee of Thomas Perkins) had called on me earlier that day to announce that he and his ship had been acquitted of any illegality.

“I regret you interfered on behalf of my servants. I wrote you on 13th December expressly refusing your offer of guarantee. I told you the matter was well on its way to amicable settlement. I had already accepted another guarantee and both I and the guarantor were explicitly told my servants would be released once my arrival at Macau was reported to the government here. Before leaving Canton I communicated with them twice and was assured they were being fed and not tortured and both then expected speedy release. By turning their liberation into a political matter you jeopardised their hope for early release. Neither they nor I requested your help. You have protracted their imprisonment.

“I will accept that the Editor of the Canton Register received an early incorrect version of your petition.”

Elliot to Innes, 17th January 1839:

“I was surprised that official papers which I copied to you, asking they not be published, were instantly published by you. I believe my intervention on behalf of your servants will help them. The only fair thing that can be inferred from your correspondence is that I can address the Viceroy on this matter by letter.”

Innes to Elliot:

“I consider every official communication of the British government is legally public property. I expect a reply.”

Elliot to Innes:

“I agree that official documents are public property but their publication must be sanctioned by responsible officers.”

Vol 12 No 4 – 22nd January 1839

Notice – G Tradescant Lay left China for London per William Jardine

Vol 12 No 4 – 22nd January 1839

Local news:

  • On 15th January 1839 the Hong merchants undertook to secure the waiting ships at Whampoa on the declaration of each ship master, per How Qua’s suggestion, that his vessel carries no opium. They say the new bonding regulations will be introduced next season.
  • The Hoppo is trying to licence a new Hong merchant but the Consoo has declined to be responsible for his solvency or conduct.
  • The Hoppo stopped trade, unrelated to the above, to press his demand for 40,000 – 50,000 Taels from the Hongs as presents for the Emperor. As we go to press we hear the dispute has been settled and trade is again reopened.
  • Sir George B Robinson in his formal correspondence with Palmerston from Lintin describes our smuggling trade as ‘the relaxed system.’ The new bonding regulations proposed by the Hongs to commence next season are unacceptable. No smuggler in ‘the relaxed system’ can ever give a bond that he is not a smuggler. That would suggest we are ready to lie if we think we can get away with it. We should not co-operate with the Chinese. We should do nothing that helps them control our trade.

Vol 12 No 4 – 22nd January 1839

Keshen, Viceroy of Chih Li, has sent a memorial to the Emperor on Hwang Tseo Tsze’s anti-opium proposals. He does not recommend following the lead of Cochin-China where a death penalty has been introduced for smoking. He thinks people should not be executed for bad habits.

He fears there is a heightened probability of insurrection in all the maritime provinces if opium smoking becomes a capital crime and regrets the likely requirement that so many heads must fall.

Keshen’s proposal is to stop foreign trade completely. He thinks the foreigners, once cut off from the tea supply, will eventually petition for renewed trade and can then be induced to comply with Chinese law.21

Vol 12 No 4 – 22nd January 1839

Morrison Education Society Report:

A complaint was received by the Society that Mrs Gutzlaff was using scurrilous means to attract students to her school in Macau. The committee accordingly investigated Gutzlaff’s school.

We found the majority of blind students had not been misled into joining but had been particularly sought out by the Gutzlaffs as they are discriminated against in Chinese society. The school appeared to be operating properly and Mr Gutzlaff undertook never to use inappropriate methods of recruitment. The Society’s monthly contributions to the school have since been recommenced.

Vol 12 No 4 – 22nd January 1839

Letter from the Hongs to the Chamber, 16th January 1839:

We are strictly forbidden to permit opium imports or sycee exports. You object to our bonding proposals on the grounds you have insufficient time to notify all your overseas principals and ship and cargo owners. We attach a final copy of the new Regulations which please publish in your newspapers. Next season all foreign ships coming to China will be managed in accordance with these Regulations. The old system will continue briefly but ship captains and consignees must exert themselves to prevent their involvement with contraband (opium, sycee and others).

The new Regulations:

  • Any ship carrying opium or sycee will be instantly expelled. The ship owner will pay a fine of $20,000 into the Consoo Fund towards the liquidation of foreign debts.
  • Any ship carrying any other sort of contraband will be stopped trading. The contraband will be sold and the proceeds confiscated. The cargo owner(s) will pay half the value of the contraband in fines. The fines will be credited to the Consoo Fund for liquidation of foreign debts.
  • No foreign ship at Whampoa may employ decked ferry boats. If she does, her trade will be stopped and the boat will be surrendered to the General Chamber for destruction, whereafter the trade of the foreign ship may be resumed.
  • The master of every expelled ship will not be able to recover Port Entry charges which fall due on entry to the river. Expulsion does not entail remission of port charges.
  • If fines assessed under these regulations remain unpaid, the amounts will be deducted from the prices paid for that ship’s imports.

Wording of the Bond required of all ship masters and consignees:

We …. (the Master) and …. (the consignee) of ….. (ship’s name on the ….. [nationality] registry), which has come to Canton with a cargo of …. , do hereby guarantee that she carries no contraband. If she has decked boats, we agree not to use them.

If the ship is later discovered to carry contraband or to use decked boats, we agree to be dealt with according to the new Regulations. In witness whereof we have signed this Bond.

Vol 12 No 4 – 22nd January 1839

Elliot, in his written defence published to Innes, has accused us of vulgarity. We now publish the original petition he submitted in Chinese to the Viceroy in complete exoneration.

On 1st January we published Elliot’s advice on how Britons may protest against his actions. We are not proposing to go so far but, had a civil court been established here, an action by Innes against Elliot for libel might have had merit.

If Elliot’s future actions cause us loss, even if the British government later condemns them, we should have a good claim on it for restitution.22

Vol 12 No 4 – 22nd January 1839

Proclamation of Hoppo Yu, 21st December 1838:

“Acting Viceroy Lee in 1761 obtained Imperial permission for foreigners to dwell at Canton during the trading season. The residences are now owned by the present Hong merchants. No permission was given for foreigners to connect with other natives or carry on a smuggling trade. The then Hong merchants took the street now called Sap Sarm Hong (Thirteen Factories) Street and planned the residences between that street and the riverbank. There were doors opening onto Sap Sarm Hong Street but they were all locked or otherwise closed-up and no communication with the natives was permitted. There were doors on the south side facing the river which were convenient for moving cargo to / from the boats. These allowed us to observe the foreigners handling their cargo and permitted examination and search of people coming and going. The plan was submitted to and approved by the then Viceroy.

“Now I find that six factories (Dutch, Creek, British, Old English, Parsee and Powshun Hongs) have opened doors at the north of their premises thus permitting communication with the Chinese residents of Sap Sarm Hong Street. These doors were added in 1823 after the Great Fire. They are used by Chinese traitors to access the foreigners’ residences which makes it difficult for my staff to prevent smuggling. Consequently, the revenue of China has been seriously deranged.

“We have now received the Imperial command to extirpate the trade in opium and other contraband. On receipt of this Edict, the Hong merchants will lock or otherwise stop-up the back doors of the six factories giving access to Sap Sarm Hong Street so the factories are returned to their legal design.

“The foreigners will no doubt oppose, saying the doors are necessary fire escapes or some such thing. The Hong merchants are to explain to the foreigners that fires should be prevented and are, in any event, rare occurrences. They managed for sixty years without back doors and can continue to do so. The Swedish, Imperial, Spanish, French, American and Danish Hongs are without back doors and their occupants have never complained of danger. The Hong merchants will put the work in hand and report when complete for my inspection. Do not let the foreigners mislead you into continuing this breach of the law.”

Editor – Some Chinese use Dr Peter Parker’s hospital in Hog Lane – they will not be able to do so if this order is enforced.

Vol 12 No 4 – 22nd January 1839

Manchuria – the rivers of Manchuria are frozen eight months of the year. Occasional frosts during the remainder of the year deter farming. In the absence of farming, the residents are mainly fur trappers or hunters. It is a tough environment breeding tough people. Existence is precarious and the people are often free-booters. Three tribes have submitted to the Ching dynasty – the Solons, Goluns and Ooleanghaes – and have pledged to deliver martin pelts in barter for food. They are poor but proud people.

Another class of inhabitants along the Amur River are State criminals and convicts, banished there as slaves to the soldiers. Many of them pull barges on the rivers. They are wretchedly treated and have short life expectancies. For many their sentences quickly become capital.

The Amur River produces something rare – pearls. The Chinese government maintains over a hundred pearl fisheries along the banks of the Amur and a tribe of fish-eaters is employed to dive for them. The harvest is reportedly considerable. This icy waste provides an excellent frontier, better than the Great Wall. No army is likely to attack here unless it is an army composed of the residents themselves.

Vol 12 No 5 – 29th January 1839

The Asiatic Journal has again vilified the opium trade. The journal is controlled by Company Directors who make opium in Bengal for sale in China. They sell the Drug at astronomical prices to the highest bidder. If the Directors are really concerned for British trade in China they will withdraw their Bills Agency and abandon the manufacture and sale of Bengal opium. They might then appear disinterested and patriotic. Until then their tirades against the free trade will be seen as sour grapes (pretending one does not want something of which one has been denied).23

Vol 12 No 5 – 29th January 1839

Letter from the China trade Agencies of London to the India Company, 10th August 1838:

Please stop financing Chinese exports at Canton. Early last year the East India and China Association asked you to do this. Your financing causes unnecessary speculation. The ready availability of your funds causes fluctuations in the money market. It makes purchases in China more expensive and reduces Chinese demand for British exports. We believe you can remit the ‘home charges’ directly from the three Indian presidencies at a fair rate of exchange.

Sgd Cockerell & Co, Palmer Mackillop Dent & Co, Gregson Melville & Co, Fletcher Alexander & Co, Crawford Colvin & Co, Scott Bell & Co, Small Colquhoun & Co, Alexander Crowe & Co, Archibald Hastie & Co, Morrison Cryder & Co, Fairlie Hodgson & Co, Gardner Urquhart & Co, Daniell Dickinson & Co, Barclay Brothers, Dallas & Coles, Rawson Norton & Co, Lyall Brothers, Gledstanes Kerr & Co, J MacKenzie & Co, Robert Eglinton & Co, Thomas Weeding & Co, J Cockburn & Co, Sanderson Fry Fox & Co (a directory of the London agents of China trade.)

Vol 12 No 5 – 29th January 1839

Notice – before Robert Edwards left China I gave him two chronometers and two watches (details provided) to take to London for repairs. Since then I have heard nothing from him. The public are informed these mechanisms are mine. Sgd James P Sturgis, 24th January 1839

Vol 12 No 5 – 29th January 1839

Peking Gazettes:

  • The Governor of Hu Kuang, Lin Tsih Tseu (Cantonese Lam Jark Chiu), has been appointed an Imperial Commissioner and is ordered to Canton to crush the opium trade. The Admiral at Canton will put himself under Lin’s orders.
  • Imperial order to Viceroy Tang of the Two Yuet (Kwangtung and Kwangsi). Opium imports and silver exports continue. Expunging the trade seems too much for one man. I have sent Lin specifically to manage the affair. After his arrival, you may not take the role of an observer, but will also exert yourself. You are not permitted to fail. Consult with Lin, devise a plan, discuss with your senior officials and send me your report. Opium is a great national evil.

Vol 12 No 5 – 29th January 1839

Eastern News Review, No VIII – Relations with China have reached a critical point. The Company formerly stood as a barrier between the Chinese government and the free traders. Since 1834 it has removed and the free traders have developed a smuggling trade. We can hardly blame the Chinese – they have been patient and have issued frequent warnings. Now our smugglers are being expelled. We hope the Royal Navy, which has been dispatched to Canton, will not provoke a breach.

Vol 12 No 5 – 29th January 1839

Viceroy Tang to the foreigners, 15th January 1839:

“You have been welcomed to trade here for two centuries. You have made huge profits. Tea has become a necessary to you but nothing you sell us is essential. In spite of this beneficent policy towards you, you smuggle opium to make greater profits.

“Some say your purpose is to drain China of her wealth but China has abundant riches. Others say you simply cannot resist excessive profits.

“We are not your enemy – why do you do this to us?

“Making profit is pleasing to humanity but you are so addicted to money you have no fear of the law. You should know that we will not tolerate your activities indefinitely. Now you have lost your self-control, the Emperor is angered by your dealings, he may stop all connection with you, not just your opium imports but your tea exports too. We must enforce our law and if you cannot comply you will have to go.

“We have repeatedly directed you in writing as to your correct behaviour but because you are addicted to profit you cannot comprehend. Instead you tell us you are good and upright people. Do you not know that many boats have been seized? Do you not know that your smuggling in the river is public knowledge? And you assert you are law-abiding and respectable!

“The Emperor is indignant at your wickedness. He is prepared to banish you for ever. The most severe punishments are under consideration to bring opium importing to an end. The Emperor’s policy is a moral policy. It accords with the will of Heaven. How can you hope to thwart it?

“The Emperor has mobilised the army and navy to act decisively against opium smuggling. They will seize the native smugglers and their boats. In every town and village the opium brokers and divan keepers are being arrested. Already several hundred seizures have been made. Those people who have been long involved in the illegal trade and lost their fear of detection and death are soon going to face the implacable majesty of the law. Koo Ah Ping, Ho Lau Kin and others (executed for opium offences) have already experienced it. Several ten thousand addicts are stopping smoking and surrendering their pipes to the government. As they increasingly repudiate opium your market will shrink and your profits fly away.

“All along it has been the people of China who have been punished for your crimes while you seem to expect perpetual mercy and forbearance. In future you will receive the same punishments as Chinese so the majesty of China will be made known to you. You come from far away bringing your capital to make trade. You have involved yourselves in continual illegality for profit. You willingly destroy Chinese people to get it. Now our people are giving-up smoking opium. The brokers are in hiding and everyone connected with you has been endangered. Your means of introducing opium to China are being blocked. Can you not see the predictable fruits of your actions?

“I earnestly direct you to forego opium trade, remove your receiving ships and stop your coasting ships from distributing the Drug. If you stupidly and greedily insist on continuing this trade you put yourselves beyond the protection of law. I can ask the Emperor to stop trade in perpetuity. Then there will be no tea for your ships. Your Kings have hitherto been just and you live under law. When the tea no longer comes there will be an enquiry and your governments will detect your role. Then you may find the law of your own countries against you as well as the law of China.

“An Imperial Commissioner is coming to Canton soon to stop the opium trade. He will take whatever measures he thinks necessary to fulfil his task. I warn you to save yourselves while there is still time. Listen to my words. Do not repent too late.”

Vol 12 No 6 – 5th February 1839

Calcutta Christian Observer, 10th September 1838:

The opium trade at Lintin has been extended along the entire coast of China by the use of 18 square-rigged ships.24 The number of receiving ships at Lintin has also increased. 32 schooners (the large ferry boats of the Edicts) are daily engaged in carrying opium up the river to Whampoa and Canton. Deliveries are most extensive at Whampoa. Many foreigners are now themselves smuggling – they use small armed boats to deliver the drug ashore. They deliver chests up the river as far as 7-8 miles above Canton.

Vol 12 No 6 – 5th February 1839

The new regulations for ferry boats have been published. There are to be seven licensed boats and each will carry the English flag. We wonder how long the Customs Houses will require these boats to stop on each trip – no fees can be charged. Why do the Chinese refer to their own ferry boats as To Suen (way boats) and to ours as Sam Pan? (literally ‘three boards’ – the name of the smallest river boat but here referring to the traditional 20+ foot workboat)

Vol 12 No 6 – 5th February 1839

Edict of the Nam Hoi heen, 27th January 1839:

“In 1795 the Kien Lung Emperor described the trade system at Canton. ‘The Hong merchant and the foreigner negotiate and agree a price for the imports. The Hong merchant then sells them and distributes the proceeds as agreed. Any unsold goods are settled in the next season. At that time they close the previous year’s account and commence the new year’s account. However the confusion of last year’s stock with this year’s stock permits the Hongs to amass debts to the foreigners. I now limit the amount of indebtedness that a Hong can have to foreigners. It should not exceed 100,000 Taels.’

“Recently it has been apparent that Hongs are running up excessive debts. This Edict should be engraved in stone and set up in the foreign factories so none can claim ignorance. The extent of indebtedness has been fixed. If the foreigners find it has been exceeded, they must petition government for a fixed term of repayment. If the indebted Hong fails to make repayments he will be treated like the Proprietor of old Chung Wo Hong – degraded and banished to the frontier. If the foreigners do not immediately petition, but use their capital to make profit from financing instead of trade, then their petitions will be ignored. This will limit the incidence of debt.”

Editor – Instead of limiting the amount of money that a Hong merchant can owe to any one foreigner, the Nam Hoi heen has limited the Hong merchant’s overall debts to foreigners. It will be impossible to know the Hong’s detailed debts to individuals. We hope the Chamber will ask for a clarification.

Vol 12 No 6 – 5th February 1839

Letter from the Hongs to the Chamber, 27th January 1839 – herewith three Viceregal Edicts dated 22nd January 1839 in reply to your petitions on ferry boats:

“The Hong merchants have submitted a plan for management of ferries. It is approved.

“The boats will display the character for ‘obedience’. They will be marked as ‘licensed boat’ in Chinese on the stern and sail.

“Each boat will receive a stamped and sealed passport. They must stop at the Bogue Customs House for examination where an entry will be made in the passport and stamped. On preparing to leave the river they must apply at the Canton or Whampoa Customs Houses where details of the return voyage will be completed and stamped in the passport. When the passport is full the Hongs will return it and apply for replacement.

“The Chairman of the General Chamber is security for the good behaviour of the boat-operators and his Bond must be deposited with us. Any boat that neglects to stop or declines to be searched or carries contraband will be stopped and her cargo seized. The boat will be destroyed and the foreigner securing her will be held responsible.

“Elliot when travelling on the river must report his arrivals and departures to the Tung Che at Macau. He must stop at all Customs Houses and have his passport completed and stamped. Every ten days the Customs Houses will report the details of the ferry boats they have examined. The Hong merchants will monthly report the same information independently so a check can be made. Hereafter, any unlicensed boat found in the river will be forcibly expelled.”

An Edict dated 24th January 1839:

“Lindsay says he has agreed the wording of the bonds with the Hongs but no licenses have been received. He says this is inconvenient as the boats are waiting at Macau.

“I, the Viceroy, have allowed 7 ferry boats and Elliot’s cutter (Louisa) to be used for carriage of mails. The Hoppo is checking the Bonds and will thereafter issue the licenses. Then the boats should be brought to the river in front of the factories for inspection.”

An Edict dated 24th January 1839:

“Lindsay says on 21st January the Hoppo stopped trade. He can discover no reason for the Hoppo’s act. His members have much valuable cargo in cargo-boats that is exposed to theft and damage. He implores us to do something.

“On receiving this I, the Viceroy, note the foreigners use lighters to move cargo to / from their ships. The lighters are supplied by the Hongs. The government maintains no records of lighters. The Hoppo will investigate this and report. He will explain why the lighters have stopped working cargo. The Hong merchants will also investigate and report.”

Vol 12 No 6 – 5th February 1839

Lindsay has petitioned the Viceroy on 21st January for new Hong merchants:

‘New rich and responsible Hong merchants are welcome but they must have adequate capital. Several new Hongs have been established in recent years but they have little capital and less experience. They are invariably late paying duty and paying us for our goods. We fear debts will again accumulate. Please take care of this.’

The Viceroy replies, 24th January 1839:

“Historically there were 13 Hongs but lately some inefficient people have joined and debts have arisen. Thirteen is an adequate number but How Qua and Mow Qua should select only those who are rich and respectable and can satisfy the bonding requirements. They should not introduce new people who are unsuitable.

Vacancies in the Co-Hong are filled on recommendations of the Hongs and Hoppo and approved by government. The numbers of Hong merchants is not a matter for foreigners to concern themselves with. If you think one merchant is unsuitable you can always select another. You are not compelled to trade with any particular Hong

“Yesterday Russell & Co petitioned for new Hong merchants and now the Chamber petitions as well. I suspect some native traitors are directing you to waste my time so they may profit from it.”25

Vol 12 No 6 – 5th February 1839

Lindsay’s letter dated 2nd February on behalf of the Chamber to the Hongs resiling from his former agreement to the Hoppo’s bonding arrangements for boats:

“The seven ferry licences have been received and all the boats are at Canton for inspection. After approval we will deliver the licences to each boat. The Hoppo has proposed all sorts of new Regulation which will be very inconvenient. We are sure the draft Regulations we proposed to you, which are contained in our letter of 28th December, are sufficient to prevent illegality. Our bond refers only to these Regulations and not to the Hoppo’s creation.

“We have agreed to:

  • Advise boat owners of the penalties for smuggling.
  • Advise masters to present all baggage and other articles on board for examination when arriving at or leaving Canton.
  • On passing the forts, if a government boat approaches, the master shall invite the officials to search.

“These regulations combine your need to prevent illegality with our need for convenience. You submitted them to the Viceroy on our behalf and he did not object. We will instruct the passage boat masters accordingly.”

Vol 12 No 6 – 5th February 1839

The Hashemy (Buckle) has arrived in Calcutta from China on 9th August 1838.

Vol 12 No 7 – 12th February 1839

Notice – M/s Wm Almace and Y J Murrow are authorised to sign our engagements per pro (per procurationem – delegated authority). M/s Jamieson & How, 9th February 1839

Vol 12 No 7 – 12th February 1839

Elliot has created a Marine Police to control British crews at Whampoa. The details are in his following circular of 4th February 1839:

Magistrates will be ship masters appointed by warrant. Their precedence follows their position on the seniority list. The ship of the senior magistrate will fly a red burgee on its main to identify it. Quarter-Masters of Police will be appointed by Elliot. Magistrates will attend on board any ship that signals a disturbance is in progress. Firearms will not be used, except to protect life, until a magistrate (failing whom the ship’s captain, failing whom a Quarter Master of Police) shall have audibly proclaimed to the disturbers to disperse and respect the peace. The senior magistrate may summarily arrest ring-leaders on the spot and detain them there or on any other British ship. Within 48 hours of detention any three magistrates shall examine the charges against the detainee. No magistrate may judge a man from his own ship. The magistrates will decide and issue their opinions. The senior magistrate will have a casting vote. Doubtful cases may be remanded for a reference to Elliot. The senior magistrate shall have £3.10.0d per month to settle his expenses. All cases are to be written-up on official paper and collected in 200 page volumes for reference. Quarter-Masters will wear a strip of red cloth on their left upper arms and carry a white cane up to 2′ long. Quarter-Masters will act with restraint or they will be fined for a first offence and discharged for a second. They will get 1/6d per day as wages.

Offences to be dealt with – drunk and disorderly; contempt of authority; disobedience of orders; organising riots. Penalties are brief imprisonment and fines.

Commanders having prisoners on their ships as a result of this Regulation may employ labour to manage them and deduct the costs from the prisoners’ wages. None of these Regulations diminish the powers that ship masters already enjoy.

These rules are binding on all British seamen. Her Majesty’s ratification has been sought. A copy of the rules will be provided to every British ship on arrival.

Editor – we are glad Elliot has the power to do this – the recent serious mutinies on the John Bull and Imogen call for severe coercive measures to preserve the peace.

Vol 12 No 7 – 12th February 1839

Letter to the Calcutta Englishman, published 23rd October 1838:

This year’s tea harvest in Assam has been completed with three times the crop of last year. The plants are provided from nurseries. The tea nursery at Jaipur collected 52,000 seedlings in one month.

The planters are short of workers – the local people are planting their rice now and have no time for tea. We need extra coolies from Calcutta. Some Chinese are on their way. We hope they will show us how to make green tea. Government is very supportive and is sending 300 – 400 families of Dangoors to Assam as labourers.

Last year we sent 40 boxes (20 seers each – 1,600 lbs totally) of tea to Calcutta but our boxes are not air-proof and the tea gets damp from humidity and loses its flavour. Upper Assam is a rich province – it has copper mines and a vibrant trade in copper to Tibet. The land along the foothills of the Naga range was depopulated during the last 50 years and the countryside remains open. Cotton used to grow on the hills and excellent sugar-cane.

It is better for the Indian coolie to come here with his family than be banished alone to Mauritius.26 Mauritius has foul water, we have pristine rivers. Sgd “CR”

Vol 12 No 7 – 12th February 1839

The first mile of the King’s Road out of West London is surfaced with Chinese stone. It was brought back to London by the Company as ballast in its ships and sold cheaply to a road contractor.

In return we export some fine chalk from Northfleet to China which might be used in porcelain manufacture.

Vol 12 No 7 – 12th February 1839

Editorial – The Editor of the Canton Press receives official Chinese news from Elliot with free translations but we (Editor Slade) get these papers later and have to make our own translations!

Vol 12 No 7 – 12th February 1839

Extract from a private letter from Macau:

Last week four Customs House men were each smuggling two balls of Patna in the Inner Harbour when their boat was boarded by an official and ten soldiers in a coast-guard boat. Some of the opium was seized.

One smuggler escaped to the main Customs House and alerted the 30 coolies standing-by there. They assisted him in thrashing the official party and recovering his seized colleagues and opium.

Editor – How long can this state of affairs last?

Vol 12 No 7 – 12th February 1839

Commissioner Lin is daily expected but some are saying he will delay his arrival until the Lunar New Year festivities are concluded. The Ann and the Hooghly were despatched to reach Calcutta before the first auction sales in order that the market might know the state of business here. If they were on time their advice should hold prices down.

Vol 12 No 7 – 12th February 1839

Order of the Hoppo:

“I previously ordered that the back doors of the foreign factories be bricked-up. The Hongs have now reported that they ordered the foreigners to take action but they all said the back doors are not used for smuggling and are essential fire escapes. If the doors are blocked, their ability to remove property in fires is reduced.

“After the factories were built in the Kien Lung Emperor’s reign there was no fire for 60 years until the Great Fire of 1822. Moreover the factories belong to the Hongs and the foreigners merely reside there temporarily. I conclude the Hongs are assisting the foreigners to subvert my actions against smuggling. Will they next request that the factories with no back doors have them installed?

“I have ordered that the openings be closed. It is unnecessary to remove the doors themselves, just brick them up loosely on the outside. If a fire occurs the bricks can be removed to permit egress.”

Edict of the Viceroy, 1st February:

Receiving this I, the Viceroy, consider the Hoppo has been unusually indulgent in allowing the doors to remain and merely requiring a heap of bricks to be placed outside. The Hongs are ordered to secure the foreigners’ compliance. Do not delay.

Editor – on receipt of this instruction the Hongs told the foreign community that the orders must be obeyed.

Vol 12 No 8 – 19th February 1839

The Bombay Times of 3rd November 1838 contains an Extract from their local Journal of Commerce:

The most valuable branch of our (Bombay Presidency) trade is with China. The latest figures for 1836 and 1837 (currency not identified but most likely Bombay Rupees) are :





The startling 40% drop in 1837 exports reflects the smaller shipments and reduced value of Malwa due to Chinese enforcement action at Canton. Bombay exports are almost entirely cotton and Malwa; our imports are mostly silver dollars, sycee and gold with some silk, cassia, tea and sugar candy.

The balance of trade is comprised of Bombay merchants’ exports of China produce to England, English traders’ returns to England via Bombay and remittance of Bills on India or London sent to Bombay for negotiation.

30 ships (22,000 tons) are employed on our China trade. They are mainly owned by Indians and Parsees in Bombay.

Our second trade partner is England:





The 50% decrease in our exports to England in 1837 is due to the suspension of shipments after the commercial crisis in London of July and the consequent collapse of demand in Europe. We import cottons and woollens from England and export local produce – cotton, coffee, pepper, senna, etc.

Vol 12 No 8 – 19th February 1839

London Post – a quantity of black tea from Assam has been sent to Leadenhall Street and several tea-tasters say it is comparable to Chinese tea.

Vol 12 No 8 – 19th February 1839

Journal of Commerce, Bombay, 10th November – the opium market has been excited by news from China and local prices have risen to 1,060 rupees per chest. Three days ago 300 chests changed hands at 1,025 – 1,030.

1,000+ chests have been delivered to the Ardaseer, Mahommedie and Good Success for shipment to China. Since the end of the monsoon, passes have been taken out for 9,550 chests of Malwa, of which 2,385 chests have so far been imported to Bombay (see the Opium Chapter for the restrictive Pass System instituted at Bombay to control Malwa opium). We expect totally 7,000 chests to arrive from Malwa before January.

Vol 12 No 8 – 19th February 1839

Editorial – Bombay opium is being over-produced. China is considering either legalisation or complete suppression, and the trade is severely threatened.

It is 20 years since opium was first distributed under the British flag to the East Coast of China. During the last ten years the quantity imported has increased annually and in the last two years corrupt Chinese officials have permitted the opening of a market at the Whampoa anchorage. It is the increased smuggling on the coast that has angered the Chinese and solicited their counter-measures.

The foreign opium agents at Canton should consider a radical alteration to the way they conduct this trade. They would do well to allay Chinese fear and suspicion. Temporising is the best means of preserving their interests and those of their constituents in India. They should consider if it might be politic to bow before the present storm, withdraw the fleet involved in coastal distribution and, at least temporarily, concentrate the business on the receiving ships at Lintin. Once the Emperor is satisfied that the coastal voyages have ceased, his officials can claim some success and pressure might well be relieved.27

The opium smugglers should focus on maintaining the corrupt infrastructure they have built with the Canton officials and ensuring their routes of distribution through those channels. This seems to be the only way to satisfy China.

If we continue as we are, we will goad China into some desperate measure from which it cannot resile and the whole foreign trade will be endangered. The opium smugglers and / or the General Chamber at Canton should adopt this new system. There will necessarily be a decrease of opium manufacture in Bengal and Malwa but we are all agreed the rate of growth in the trade has been unsustainable for years and something needs to be done to preserve as much of it as we can.

Vol 12 No 8 – 19th February 1839

The Editor of the Canton Press has made the distinction that Chinese law lists what you can do whereas Western law lists what you cannot do. He says this produces the uniformity of Chinese opinion.

Vol 12 No 8 – 19th February 1839

Dr Peter Parker has had a brush with the law:

A Chinese female came to him begging his help for dropsy. He admitted her to the hospital in Hog Lane but she died soon after. The Nam Hoi heen was alerted to the death by the Hong merchants and conducted an Inquest in the hospital. Fortunately he is an ex-patient of Parker’s and apologised privately first to say he could not officially appear friendly. A lengthy enquiry into Parker’s qualifications and treatment followed before the heen was satisfied.

How Qua made a characteristically pithy observation:

Dr Parker take care that man hab got friend, no fear makee die. Suppose got lady sick, maskee no matter. Suppose too much sick, makee die, ai ya, too much trub“.

This Inquest has brought the foreign hospital to the formal attention of government and, provided no Edict follows the death, it will be a tacit official recognition of Parker’s institution.

Vol 12 No 8 – 19th February 1839

Galignani’s Messenger (London), 8th October 1838 – 16 million lbs of tea has been offered at auction to the wholesale trade. It is the largest sale ever. The quantity has shocked the dealers and prices have fallen. As a result a large part of the offering has been withdrawn.

Vol 12 No 9 – 26th February 1839

A man was judicially strangled in front of Ming Qua’s Hong in the factories yesterday (Tuesday evening). This is Viceroy Tang’s way of implicating us in the man’s offence. We should not forget that Chinese law gives a right of frontage wherever water flows. The square, where this latest execution took place, is part of our rented property. We really would be barbarians if we did not protest.

Vol 12 No 10 – Tuesday 5th March 1839

The Company’s revised terms for trade finance in China:

  1. Up to 60% of our valuation of the cargo is available to borrow.
  2. The goods must be stored in a warehouse in England that we approve.
  3. Repayment is effected by 6-month Sight Bills at our published exchange rate for silver dollars.
  4. Lenders must surrender the original B/L’s and original insurance policy, both endorsed to us.
  5. The Company will release the goods to consignee once payment has been received. It may sell the goods if repayment is delayed.
  6. Lenders must undertake to have their London agent arrange fire insurance once the cargo arrives in England.
  7. Tea exporters must give two day’s notice once the goods are ready for inspection (one day for silk) and ship off within three days thereafter.
  8. Non-resident exporters will need a guarantee from a resident company.

Vol 12 No 10 – Tuesday 5th March 1839


  • With effect from 1st January 1839, Mr Meds Lange, many years resident at Ampenan (on the island of Lombok), became a partner in my firm John Burd & Co. All your commissions for island produce will be punctually attended to. Sgd John Burd.
  • Andrew Jardine is admitted a partner w.e.f. 1st July 1839. J M & Co, 2nd July

Vol 12 No 10 – Tuesday 5th March 1839

Amsterdam Handelsblatt, 24th September – We have a letter from Batavia dated 12th May 1838 reporting rigorous Chinese measures against foreign traders at Canton.

English, American, French, Belgian and German traders have left and only the Dutch community continues to trade unaffected.

The Dutch Consul has been at Canton for 12 years. He speaks Chinese and knows the Hong merchants well.

Vol 12 No 10 – Tuesday 5th March 1839

HMS Larne (Blake) has arrived and is anchored in Taipa roads.

Vol 12 No 10 – Tuesday 5th March 1839

Editorial – Opium speculation at Bombay and Calcutta must have disastrous results so long as the Chinese government continues its suspension of trade. We should suspend opium farming until Chinese intentions become clear. Commissioner Lin is expected to arrive about 18th March.

Vol 12 No 10 – Tuesday 5th March 1839

Petition of the British merchants to A R Johnstone, Assistant Commissioner of British Trade:

HMS Larne has arrived but is expected to stay only briefly. Please tell Elliot it is our opinion we need a naval force here permanently, particularly as our relations with the Chinese are so poor.

Sgd Dent & Co, Daniell & Co, Jardine Matheson & Co, Bell & Co, Lindsay & Co, Gibb Livingston & Co, Bibby Adam & Co, Charles S Compton, Jamieson & How, Turner & Co, Eglinton Maclean & Co, MacVicar & Co, Fox Rawson & Co, etc.

Johnstone’s Reply 28th February 1839:

I have passed your message to Elliot and asked HMS Larne to defer her departure until Elliot’s reply is available.

Elliot’s reply 2nd March:

I have already asked HM sloop to remain as long as is commensurate with its other duties as I need a channel of communication with Calcutta in case things get worse.

The latest execution in front of the factories has revealed how hazardous our position is. I will try to counsel the Viceroy and advise him of the terrible danger he has caused.

Vol 12 No 10 – Tuesday 5th March 1839

Captain E Parry of the receiving ship Fort William has provided a report from the smuggling fleet, presently at Hong Kong harbour, 2nd March 1839:

The government junks have been more numerous and reduced the number of visits our customers have been able to make. A few of the local grog shops that supply the sailors with Sam Shoo on Sundays have been burned down.28 There is a rumour that five fire rafts are to be sent against us but I think it unlikely. That is the extent of the difficulties we have.

The senior naval officer asked us to go elsewhere for 2-3 weeks as Commissioner Lin is arriving in about a week. We will leave on Monday morning and probably anchor off the Soko Islands.

Vol 12 No 10 – Tuesday 5th March 1839

A large quantity of counterfeit silver dollars that were made in China and shipped to India have been discovered after arrival in November 1838. The silver content is reduced. They are imitations of the Ferdinand VII dollar but the ‘head’ is not stamped clearly and the coins are not perfectly circular.

Vol 12 No 10 – Tuesday 5th March 1839

Letter from the Hongs to the General Chamber:

Several of the newly licensed ferry boats continue to refuse examination by Customs officers. The purpose of the new licensing regime is to restrict your smuggling. If your boats do not submit to search, the purpose is defeated. Searching takes little time and if you are delayed we will petition on your behalf. We have agreed this system with you but you still play games with us.

We attach an Edict of the Hoppo. Please ask the boat owners to clearly state whether they agree to search or not. Those that refuse will be delicensed. You may select some other boat in replacement and apply for a licence again.

Hoppo Yu’s Edict to the Hongs:

The Bogue Customs House says Pierce’s boat No 5 did not stop and when questioned the pilot said he had a licence and was not smuggling so there was no need to stop. He would not surrender his licence for endorsement as required.

Now, I have licensed these boats between Macau and Canton and it is a licensing term that they stop at every Customs House between those places. Previously, Bovet’s boat and Byramjee’s boat did not stop. Now Pierce’s No 5 also ignores the agreed terms. These boat owners have agreed to surrender their boats for demolition if they are used for smuggling. Since we isolated the receiving ships and prevented their business, the ferry boats are used to distribute the drug up the river. This disobedience of the boat owners is detestable. You are reminded to instruct the foreigners that if boats do not submit to search they will be seized, their cargo sold and the boat dismantled.

Chamber’s reply to the Hongs:

It must be a misunderstanding. We have again instructed the boat owners to anchor under the Wang Tong fort for one hour so the Bogue Customs House staff can arrange inspections if necessary. Sgd H H Lindsay.

Vol 12 No 11 – 12th March 1839

Proclamation of Elliot, 7th March 1839:

The Hong merchants tell me there will be serious consequences if small boat smuggling continues. If the fleet of small boats continues to enter the river then the licences of the ferry boats will be withdrawn. This ferry boat privilege was obtained on my undertaking on your behalf to obey Chinese law. Our trade is valuable and we should not jeopardise it by smuggling. All British small boats, other than the licensed ferry boats, must leave the river.

Editor – Elliot takes too much credit for his influence. He thinks he is more important to our trade than he really is. The ferry boat arrangements were made by the Chamber with the Hongs. He seems to think it was his own influence which produced the licensing arrangements.

At the end of his Notice he says he will denounce any British smuggler to the Chinese officials.29 Chitty’s Commercial Law deals with the powers of Consuls. In the absence of a treaty, it says, the Consul must follow the custom of the port. Since 1784 (when the gunner was surrendered for execution) no-one has ever denounced a fellow citizen. The Chinese always act from ‘olo custom’ – we should do the same.30

The boats remain in the river because Elliot’s actions have jeopardised their employment and they have claims on him for compensation. Once those are settled the boats will leave.

Vol 12 No 11 – 12th March 1839

Notice of the Company’s Agents, 7th March – we have stopped receiving money for Bills. Sgd J H Astell & W T Taylor.

Vol 12 No 11 – 12th March 1839

Commissioner Lin arrived at Canton on Sunday with seven officials, amongst whom is former Canton Judge Yau. Several senior officials tried to greet him but he refused to see any of them except Viceroy Tang and the Governor.

After interviewing them, he sent for the Hong merchants and required they produce to him Fung Ying (known to us as Ah Kong) the important opium broker, and Chiu Kuen, a well-known shopman from China Street, formerly established in Macau, who deals in smuggled silk and opium.

Before his arrival, Lin had sent instructions to the Viceroy to make a large number of suspect officials available for interview. The group is said to include the Kwong heep. There have reportedly been arrests in Peking. On Monday Lin visited the Hoppo’s office and perused the records. We hear he may soon go to the Bogue or Macau.

Vol 12 No 11 – 12th March 1839

The Canton Press has published a long article against opium mainly sourced from the New York Evening Star. It is misleading and contains errors, to which our following paragraphs list the corrections.

It says no attempt to suppress opium imports was made until two years ago.

It says until 1823, deliveries of opium at Whampoa were as regular as the subsequent Lintin trade; whereas W S Davidson, in his evidence to parliament, said Whampoa smuggling was always done furtively and deliveries to the receiving ships were only made at night. In 1821 all the receiving ships were expelled from the river without export cargoes. The bond confirming that a ship does not carry opium was commenced in 1821 by Viceroy Yuen. He wanted it to apply it to the Company ships as well as the country trade but the Select obtained exemption.

The openness of smuggling at Whampoa today is far worse than it was in 1821. The Canton Press counsels opium owners not to insist on their Chinese contacts buying the Drug. Our advice to everyone is to remain calm and passive. Let the Chinese commit themselves by taking the first step. This is what they always do to us and it will be a nice change to be in the stronger position of responding.

Vol 12 No 11 – 12th March 1839

The Singapore Free Press has commented on the state of trade at Canton. The facts are often wrong. The Canton Register is the newspaper that has the accurate news from China. The Singapore Free Press disputes our comment that ‘we almost have a prescriptive right to smuggle’.

What we mean is that smuggling has continued for so long that it is now authorised by ‘olo custom’. Those Customs officials who assist smugglers for reward are all the evidence we need.

The Singapore Free Press deplores the riot in front of the factories in December (the attempted execution of an opium broker in the square). It was not the famous traders who drove back the Chinese mob with canes – it was a few Parsee servants and some passing sailors.

Vol 12 No 11 – 12th March 1839

Notice – Elliot advises the public that he has protested the execution of an opium dealer at the factories on 26th February as it incited the attendant mob to riot and put British lives and property at risk. He has reported the facts to London.

He told the Viceroy that public executions are offensive to Westerners.31 He said the foreigners felt the protection of the Chinese government had been withdrawn from them. If another execution occurs in front of the factories, he fears there will be trouble.

Vol 12 No 11 – 12th March 1839

Letter of the Hong merchants to the Chamber – Markwick’s boats (Nos 2 & 4) passed the Customs House without stopping on both 19th and 20th February. We gave Markwick a copy of the Edict on ferry boats and he said he thought it did not apply to him as his boats were travelling at night.

All boats must stop, whatever the time of day, and if they do not we will petition government to withdraw their licences.

Vol 12 No 11 – 12th March 1839

Viceroy Tang to the Hong merchants:

“All boats entering or leaving the river must be examined at the Bogue. Advise the Chamber that their bonds will be forfeit if the regulations are not followed.”

Vol 12 No 11 – 12th March 1839

Elliot to the Chamber, 7th March:

We both want to preserve our ability to travel between Macau and Canton by ferry. We should also act prudently until Commissioner Lin’s attitude is known. Please tell your committee that I will take whatever action is necessary to ensure the continuance of the ferry boat service.

Chamber to Elliot:

We have seen your order to all British unlicensed boats to leave the river. We completely agree. Collectively and individually we are doing what we can to help you. We do not agree to your reporting by name those Britons who disobey the Chinese government. Sgd Lindsay32

Vol 12 No 11 – 12th March 1839

Letter to the Editor – it is apparent that we are approaching a crisis. The terms of our future trade are about to be settled. Opium importation is the paramount matter to the Chinese. It will have to end before any permanent arrangements for the rest of our trade can be made. The Chinese are threatening to end the opium trade on the coast and at Hong Kong (where the receiving ships are temporarily). The foreigners will struggle to preserve their valuable trade.

One proposal is to withdraw the ships to Manila or Singapore, wait a few months until things are quiet again, and then incrementally resume business.

What about the rest of our trade once the Chinese find they are able by mere Edicts to stop this important branch of it. Will we all be exposed to greater extortion? We cannot conduct reciprocal trade when the Chinese have such an advantage. How can we risk our capital when we will be putting it at the mercy of the Chinese? Opium has been a most lucrative trade due to Chinese connivance. If it is not to be tolerated in future we must either abandon it or conduct it without Chinese assistance. No-one will give-up while there is a prospect of continuing.

The only way we can continue the business is by taking a settlement under British rule on the Chinese coast. Many suitable places exist, not least the Bonin Islands which Britain recently took possession of, presumably with just such an eventuality in mind.33 We have repeatedly put this proposal to the British government but Palmerston has temporised and little should be expected. British politicians are anticipating war with Russia in which case maritime trade will be subject to attack by privateers.

The Bonin Islands would make a splendid naval base for a Russian war and could also protect our China trade. The islands are perfect for forcing a trade with north China and south Japan. If it was made a free port it would quickly become as valuable as Singapore. The islands would also give our south sea whalers a place to refit and allow their exploitation of the fishing grounds off Japan. They would be a better place for the opium fleet to withdraw to than either Manila or Singapore – the Spanish government at Manila has enacted the death penalty on opium offences.34 If we uninterruptedly developed opium at Bonin we could grow trade to the size at which the British government must take note of it. Sgd X, Canton, 1st March.

Editor – We should not voluntarily withdraw from Canton as it has been the established port for foreign trade for 70+ years. We should be able to establish our free trade on Taiwan if the other European powers can be brought to agreement. The Chinese are just commencing to subdue the aboriginals, occupy the productive land and develop the island. Their rights to do so are based on superior force – there are no Imperial assertions of a moral basis to the occupation.

The annoying thing is that the Chinese are disinterested in anything non-Chinese. They do not value any of the things we think they should value – our technological, scientific & military knowledge and commercial methods. The British government should recognise the absolute necessity for its interference.

Vol 12 No 12 – 19th March 1839

The surgeon W Lockhart of the London Missionary Society arrived at Macau last month. Dr Peter Parker has welcomed him to the Medical Missionary Society in China. He will operate the Society’s Macau hospital which Dr Parker opened last year.

The fact that the Chinese government has not disapproved the hospital (Editor – as they disapprove most everything that we do), suggests if we were more kind and considerate towards them, they might abate their suspicions of us.

Vol 12 No 12 – 19th March 1839

Commissioner Lin has commuted the award for dealing in opium to the same level as smoking opium. He is releasing the smokers from the prisons. This should mitigate the prospect of social unrest.

The Commissioner is unique in himself paying the costs of board and lodging for his retinue. Normally the Poon Yu and Nam Hoi heens have to pay the costs of visiting Imperial Commissioners. This suggests his independence and integrity.

Vol 12 No 12 – 19th March 1839

The General Chamber has circulated its membership requesting for details of the offensive and defensive weapons that each possesses. Two or three members have complained.

Is this a preparatory step to requiring foreign ships to off-load their cannon and small arms at the Bogue before entering the river?

Vol 12 No 12 – 19th March 1839

The Hongs say Pierce’s licensed Ferry Boat No 5 (Snipe), which they seized for illegality in the river, will not be demolished as they had first indicated.

Vol 12 No 12 – 19th March 1839

The ship St Vincent put out its cutter at Whampoa and it was soon after rammed by a Chinese junk occasioning the loss of nine seamen. It is uncertain if the event was accidental but, even if it was, the Chinese should be punished because, after the collision, they made no attempt to save the drowning Englishmen. If the positions were reversed we would hear no end of this from the Viceroy. All the foreign sailors at Whampoa are disturbed by the event. Here is the boat officer’s statement:

I am Charles Wood, Chief Mate of the St Vincent. I left Whampoa at 6 am 11th March for Canton with six seamen and four deck boys in the ship’s cutter. At 5.30 pm that day we started back. One seaman was drunk but the others were in good health. I set the main sail and had four oars out. When we were halfway back we were run down by a large cargo lighter going the other way. Only four of us remained in the boat after collision and it quickly sank under us.

John Smith, my bosun, and I found some floating wreckage and held on to it for over an hour until Smith became exhausted and sank. Shortly afterwards a government boat picked me up and took me to Canton. Next morning I found Charles Young had also survived. He had jumped onto the lighter at impact and had tried to indicate to the crew that they should stop for survivors but they ignored him. After five minutes of his continual pleading they steered close to the bank and threw him overboard.

Vol 12 No 12 – 19th March 1839

It is rumoured that Commissioner Lin will ask opium holders to surrender their holdings to government. The importers are considering using the discussion on legalisation in 1836 to support their claims. We reproduce the following old letter from the Hongs:

Hongs to Jardine et al, 9th August 1836:

Opium is classified as a medicine in the Hoppo’s list of dutiable commodities. The provincial government has requested the Emperor to rescind the prohibition on opium and make it a dutiable commodity. Export of specie will continue illegal.

When the new arrangements are concluded, opium importers will only be able to barter the Drug for Chinese produce. This innovation obviates the need for the opium smuggling fleet at Lintin which you should send away. If they remain we will pressure you to eject them.

Vol 12 No 12 – 19th March 1839

Commissioner Lin asked the Poon Yu heen how many prisoners he holds on opium offences. He said he had incarcerated 50+ divan keepers & sellers and over a hundred smokers. Lin examined two prisoners after which he questioned the heen “opium brokers are supposedly rich people – why have you apprehended so few and they are all poor men?’ The heen was speechless.

On Sunday Lin called the house compradors of the leading foreign firms to interview and obtained details of their masters’ opium transactions. They were all fearful and told everything they knew. After the interview they were each given 2 Taels of sycee except one man – he had only identified foreign opium importers who have already left Canton. He got a reprimand instead of reward.

Last night an Edict from the Commissioner to the foreigners was delivered by the Hongs and is being translated. We will publish it in a supplement.

Tomorrow the Commissioner will tour the Bogue, Lintin and Macau. Pursers from the four largest Hongs and two linguists, Ah Tom and Alan Tsai, will accompany him.

Vol 12 No 12 – 19th March 1839

Hong letters to Wetmore of General Chamber:

  • A great officer has arrived to extinguish the opium trade. Our lives and property depend on his success. Please publish this letter in your newspapers so all the arriving ships are aware of the matter. Please particularly impress on the small boat owners the danger of bringing opium. Do not allow your colleagues to assume this is a matter of no importance. Sgd Hongs, 17th March.
  • The licensed ferry boats are carrying vast amounts of provisions for their short voyages. It seems to be smuggling.
    They are each loaded with round shot which they say is for ballast. The import of round shot is an offence under our Arms & Ammunition laws – they must use stone ballast.
    If the boat operators think their regulation is a flexible instruction they will experience much inconvenience and the movement of foreigners in and out of the river will be impeded. Sgd Hongs, 17th March

Vol 12 No 12 – 19th March 1839

General Chamber to Hongs:

You say Ferry Boat No 5 is detained at the Bogue forts for carrying cargo to Macau. We have given the Linguist Ah Tom a letter for the boat master telling him to return to Canton for investigation. The exporter of the cargo from Canton tells us the boat owner is in Macau.

The cargo comprised 2 half tea-chests of mail, 9 catties of tea, 1 box sugar candy, 1 box clothes and 1 leather box of mails. All items were loaded at the Customs House in front of the factories and no exception was taken by the inspecting officials. Duty was assessed and paid on the goods.

We are unsure what offence the boat master is suspected of committing. It had not appeared from the previous correspondence that these trifling items were prohibited.

Vol 12 No 12 – 19th March 1839

Edict of Commissioner Lin to the Cantonese (undated):

The Emperor has ordered me to examine and control maritime affairs at Canton. If people are involved in any relevant litigation it should be shown to me. I will arrange hearings within a few days of arrival. Do not stop my chair or throw in petitions illegally.

Vol 12 No 12 – 19th March 1839

Edict of Lin, 11th March, from a copy posted on his gate:

I have arrived at Canton and will soon visit the outports. I am providing fire and food to my retinue and no one of them is permitted to wander off. The district magistrates are not required to supply me or my staff. All articles we require will be bought at the market price for cash. I will accept no petitions from fortune-tellers, unlicensed doctors and other vagrants. Unless you first reveal your family connections, you may not petition me. This is to close a popular avenue for impostors who thereby attempt deception. Government officials wishing to see me will make appointments.

Do not erect tents or other temporary accommodations around my yamen to observe and importune my staff. Chair-bearers may not queue outside for business. My staff may only leave the yamen on official business. They will pre-order chairs and will pay the hire on each occasion.

Vol 12 No 13 – 26th March 1839

Commissioner Lin’s Edict to the Hong merchants, 17th March:

China has traded with foreigners for centuries. There was never any obstacle to foreign trade until smuggling and unregulated transactions made it necessary to restrict the foreigners to a few licensed traders at Canton, the Hong merchants.

In 1816 the Ka Hing Emperor required the Hong merchants to say whether foreigners imported opium. He said if they did, their trade should be stopped and the involved foreigners expelled. Since that year the Hong merchants have routinely given a Bond on every foreign ship entering port that it carried no opium. Relying on these Bonds, we have permitted the foreigners to enter port and trade.

No vessel has ever been expelled for breach of Bond. Even now, when the fragrance of burning opium pervades the entire Empire, the Hong merchants still give their Bonds. Perhaps they are dreaming?

If they say that the opium is discharged into store ships before the carrying vessel enters port and the Bonds refer to the condition of the ship at entry, this is merely an excuse – ‘closing your ears while the bell is being stolen.’ What sort of thinking can justify such conduct? It is like a man who employs a watchman to guard his house. When the thief comes and takes away the contents, it is useless for the watchman to say there has been no theft. This behaviour is regarded by all wise men as conspiracy to steal.

The Hong merchants built and own the foreign factories. They rent them to the foreigners. All the servants of the foreigners are employed by the Hong merchants. Even the Ma Cheen (Pidgin for merchant – the shopmen or outside men) are employed by the Hongs. The money changers in the area are patronised by the Hong merchants.

For more than ten years every money changer has issued Sight Bills; every Ma Cheen has dealt in opium, every Hong employee has had connections with ‘fast crabs’. Besides these three, there are the writer’s shops (of the opium brokers) who prepare documentation and the brokers themselves who are in and out of the foreign factories day and night. All sorts of people go openly into the factories by day and escort contraband to the boats by night. Have the Hong merchants been unaware of all this or are they trying to conceal it. Who would believe them if they said they were not secretly involved?35

I was told that formerly the foreigners would wear their best clothes, swords at their sides, to visit the Hong merchants but not be granted an audience until their second attempt. Now the Hongs chase the foreigners for business. They even go beyond the Customs Houses or to Macau to meet foreigners. The relationship had changed so much that a partner in Tung Yu Hong (Woo Yay) presented a sedan chair to the President of the Company’s Select Committee and he responded by forbidding the Hong merchants to enter his rented factory in their own chairs.

It is advocated that inexperienced probationary Hong merchants exhibited this type of conduct and the older, wiser, established Hongs would not have similarly degraded themselves without their precedent but I know you are all perfumed with the stench of degradation and I am ashamed of you. You only care to make profit and you think only the foreigners can produce it for you. You forget the profits of the foreigners are a grant of the Emperor and may be withdrawn at any time if the foreigners irritate Him.

These people receive favours from the Emperor but take the lowest of depraved Chinese as their best friends. Whatever happens anywhere in China is soon known to the foreigners. But when we ask you about the foreigners, you gloss over the facts and tell lies.

How do foreigners export sycee; how can they do such a strictly prohibited thing? If they really bartered goods, where does the silver come from? You formally told us that besides barter trade the foreigners also bring $4-5 millions a year. If that was true why have they brought no money for many years, particularly as the supply of foreign silver coins in China is daily diminishing. How is it that members of the Co-Hong become bankrupt with debts of millions to foreigners. It is transparently clear that goods are not bartered for goods as required by law.

You Hong merchants have sheltered behind a memorial of the former Hoppo Ah who temporarily permitted the export of 30% of foreigners’ surplus money. You have represented this expedient as a part of Chinese law and have annually petitioned for approval of its export and have manufactured special treasure boxes for its carriage. You have routinely petitioned for approval that so-and-so (a foreigner) left money here and has now entrusted a nominee to take it home to him. You have conspired with the Hoppo’s clerks to get these approvals in the official record. Thus on the one hand you give Bonds while on the other you permit silver exports. Your words and deeds differ and not one of you seems to care. Whenever the Emperor has ordered enquiries you simply gloss over His complaints in one brief memorial.

Jardine and the others are habitual opium traffickers. Two years ago the Emperor ordered an enquiry and required their expulsion but you strenuously defended them. You used language like “if any concerted opium selling is discovered, any money received, any purchase orders given, then we willingly submit to punishment”. This Bond of yours is in the archives. Ask yourselves, should punishment be inflicted?

Innes’ boat contained opium and was seized in the river. How can I repose any confidence in your Bonds?

Last winter the foreigners protested repeatedly and you recommended their ferry boats be restored to them. Smuggling of goods and importation of arms and ammunition has been the result. If you say you do not know about these things, what use are you? If you did know, then death is an inadequate punishment for you.

China has lost hundreds of millions in silver exported in recent years. The Emperor has repeatedly reproved the provincial officers for permitting opium import and silver export, yet you continue your disgraceful conduct and all China is disgusted.

I have come to Canton to enforce the Emperor’s will. I shall first punish the depraved Chinese and you may be involved. I require you to tell the truth. The object is the elimination of the opium trade. I have instructed the foreigners to surrender their opium stocks. They will all give a Bond not to again bring opium or it will be confiscated and they will face the implacable majesty of the law. You are required to impress these commands on the foreigners. They should be allowed no grounds upon which to exhibit their contumacious dispositions. You have three days to secure the foreigners’ Bonds. If you fail it will ipso facto be seen as your support for the foreigners and I will solicit the Royal Warrant for the execution of a few of your number, confiscating what property you have as a lucid warning to the survivors. Do not say that you were not advised.

Vol 12 No 12 – 19th March 1839

Commissioner Lin’s proclamation to the foreigners, 18th March 1839:

You have been making immense profits from your trade in Canton. Formerly a few ten ships came, now hundreds arrive every year. Can you find any other market as profitable as this one?

The Emperor views all races with benevolence and welcomes you to trade so you can be steeped in profit. If Canton was closed to you, how would you profit? You want our tea and we welcome you to buy it. This is Imperial goodness.

If you had a proper sense of gratitude you would respect our law; you would obtain your profits without injuring others, but you bring opium, make our people dependant upon it and destroy their lives. You have been smuggling like this for decades, making huge profits from the misery of your customers. The whole world is indignant and it is difficult to pardon you. We have been too indulgent to you. Our sycee silver has drained away and in its place you leave opium. We have now decided to stop your opium trade.

Chinese who operate divans or sell opium will be immediately executed. We are considering making smoking a capital offence as well. It seems reasonable that Chinese law should extend to you while you are in our country.

I come from Fukien and know something of you foreigners. I hold full powers to expunge the opium trade.36 Your historical behaviour is impossible to forgive but it is just conceivable that some few of you do not know the law and I should not execute you until I am utterly confident you understand. You are storing tens of thousands of chests of opium at Lintin which you intend to smuggle into China. We have been acting vigorously against Chinese small boat importers and you are finding difficulty in locating Chinese willing to deliver the Drug from your receiving ships. The same strict law is being applied all along the coast. You have no prospect of selling your opium here in China. We have no doubt it is a deadly poison and, this time, we mean business. Why are you storing it in receiving ships out at sea, exposed to the risks of weather, fire and storm? You incur expenses for storage which you may not recover.

Considering all these circumstances, I require you to surrender all the opium in your possession to this government. I require the Hong merchants to make a record of who surrenders what. A bond in Chinese characters and foreign letters is being prepared for your signatures. Thereafter any ship bringing the smallest amount of opium will have its cargo confiscated and the responsible people will be executed. The bond presently being drafted will signify your agreement to these arrangements. It is rumoured that you foreigners attach significance to good faith. If you do as I suggest, I will take it as contrition and may overlook your history of systematic crime. I undertake to recommend this mercy to the Emperor that He may forgive your former crimes and approve your repentance. Thereafter your trade may continue as before. Thus good foreigners will profit from continuing trade and enjoy respectability.

If you continue to make excuses, misrepresent your actions and carry on as before; or if you coerce some seaman to lend his name to your continued smuggling and aver your non-involvement; or if you say you will destroy the opium yourselves or take it elsewhere for sale; or if you surrender a few chests imagining I will be deceived into believing you are co-operative, then I will recognise the wickedness in your hearts and your inability to forego smuggling profits. In spite of the Emperor’s hope to show you kindness it will be clear that you hold us in contempt and I will punish you precisely in the same way that I punish my own people.

As a Commissioner with full Imperial powers my acts should be distinguished in your minds from those day-to-day directions of the provincial government. I will remain at Canton until the stream of opium has been stopped. My reputation depends on it. There will be no half-measures. The Chinese people have become indignant at your actions. If you cannot reform and repent, if profit continues to be your sole motivation, then it will not only be the army and navy that opposes you – I might reasonably call upon the entire populace to rise-up and evict you. Trade will be ended and your access denied forever. The Chinese Empire is large and makes all sorts of produce. We were prosperous for centuries before you first came here. You have nothing we need but if we were to end your tea purchases, the economies of your countries will be deranged. You foreigners do not comprehend the difference between toil and ease nor the difference between the power of the few (foreigners) and the power of the many (Chinese).

The foreign vagabonds sell opium in the factories. I have the names of those who trade in opium and those who decline to do so. Those who can identify the smugglers and commend them to surrender their opium as well as those who willingly give the bond are good foreigners and I will distinguish them with marks of approbation. Woe or happiness, disgrace or honour – it is in your own hands.

I have told the Hong merchants to instruct you and allowed them three days to report with your requisite bonds. I will discuss the surrender of the opium with the senior provincial officials and give you a timetable shortly. Delay no more. Do not bring yourself to a situation of vain repentance.

Editor – this Edict from Lin requires one or two responses from us – the threat to mobilise the population against us is one, a completely uncivilised proposal; another is the bond he requires of us to forego trading opium. We must protest his threat to execute the crews of opium importing ships. We must make Lin aware that we are not like the submissive Chinese.

The request we surrender our opium requires details of the compensation he proposes to pay. We should refer to Hsu Nai Tsi’s legalisation proposals and the approval they met from the Canton government in its correspondence with us through the Hongs. Lin and the Emperor should be made aware, as Napier told Viceroy Loo, that they will both be held accountable to the British government for any tyranny against us. Lin has also accused the Hong merchants of traitorous connections with us. He taunts the Hongs for their submission to us as compared with their former hauteur.

These initiatives, together with the vexatious acts against ferry boats and the request for details of our weaponry,37 indicate we are under attack. We should prepare to defend ourselves. If we submit to irresponsible power our lives and property and the lives and property of the ‘traitorous natives’ are all put in jeopardy. We must alert the British government to these new threats. Only at inter-government level can the opium trade be suppressed or managed. If Britain abandons opium trade it should at least seek for a restoration of our ancient trade privileges at Amoy and Chusan.

Vol 12 No 13 – 26th March 1839

Since the end of 1833 the Canton Register has printed an extract from Charles Grant’s speech to the Commons on ending the Company’s monopoly and establishing free trade in China. It appears at the top of the front page:

The free traders appear to cherish high notions of their claims and privileges. Under their auspices a free press is already maintained at Canton; and should their commerce continue to increase, their importance will rise also. They will regard themselves as the depositaries of the true principles of British trade.”

This is the first issue not to carry the quotation.

Vol 12 No 13 – 26th March 1839

Edict of the Hoppo Yu, 19th March:

Until the investigations of the High Commissioner have been completed, no foreigner may leave Canton. The Hong merchants are to inform all the foreigners accordingly.

Vol 12 No 13 – 26th March 1839

Hong merchants to Wetmore of General Chamber, 12th March:

Concerning the goods recently confiscated from the licensed Ferry Boat No 5 (Snipe), please report who owns them, where and by whom were they shipped and where they were being taken. The Hoppo requires this information before destroying the boat.

Vol 12 No 13 – 26th March 1839

Hoppo Yu to the Hong merchants, 18th March:

“You say the tea and sugar candy etc., on Ferry Boat No 5 (Snipe) was trans-shipped at Whampoa for Canton. The goods will be sold and the proceeds distrained by government.

“Bring the Ferry Boat No 5 now aground at Whampoa to Canton so I may arrange for its demolition.

“Inform the General Chamber for its obedience.

“Question Pierce (the Snipe’s owner) as to who owns the goods, where they were shipped and where they were being taken. Do not allow him to prevaricate. Do not attempt to gloss over this matter. If you are presumptuous, I will provide no indulgence. Your punishment will not be a trifling matter.”

Vol 12 No 13 – 26th March 1839

Hongs to Wetmore as Chairman of the Chamber, 22nd March:

We advise for your information that the Hoppo has received a deputy of the Viceroy who will attend at and observe the destruction of the Snipe.

Vol 12 No 13 – 26th March 1839

Edict of the Hoppo Yu to the Hongs, 21st March:

I told you to bring quickly Pierce’s smuggling boat (Ferry Boat No 5 – Snipe) to Canton for demolition. The Viceroy has now ordered the Kwongchow Heen and the Nam Hoi Yuen to attend the destruction of the boat. Bring it here now.

Vol 12 No 13 – 26th March 1839

General Chamber to the Hongs, 21st March:

We held a meeting this morning to consider the Edict of Commissioner Lin. As Chairman, I am directed to advise you of our members’ views. We consider the Commissioner’s requirements are so fundamental as to need detailed deliberation. We propose to appoint a committee to consider them. We expect the new committee to report before 27th March.

In the interim period, a deputation of our members will attend the Hong merchants to tell them what we have already done.

We can assure you there is an almost unanimous feeling amongst our members of the necessity of divorcing ourselves from the opium trade. You know we are anxious to conclude this matter so the minds of our right-thinking members may be set at ease. Sgd Wetmore.

Editor – it was a very full meeting. The opinions were many and varied. I cannot publish them now but maybe later.

The Chairman and Deputy Chairman produced a draft address to Commissioner Lin for the approval of the membership. It was rejected by a majority of eleven and a draft letter to the Hong merchants in similar terms was substituted.

At 10 pm on Wednesday all the Hong merchants attended a joint meeting at the Chamber’s hall in the Factories. The Hongs revealed the previous proposal of the Chamber had been presented to Commissioner Lin who would accept nothing less than the surrender of the opium failing which he would execute some Hong merchants.38

The members requested precise details of words used in the Hongs’ communication with the Commissioner.

The Hongs then said they had presented our letter to him and he passed it to the Kwongchow Prefect to read. After hearing it, he declared the foreigners were trifling with him (‘ …… we will form a committee’) and were ill-advised to do so. He said if the opium was not surrendered he would come to the Consoo House tomorrow morning and reveal his response.

For the time being, I will not publish the discussion that followed.

Vol 12 No 13 – 26th March 1839

The Editor of Canton Register commences a diary of events:

Monday 18th March Thom was called by Mow Qua to attend at his Hong and translate Commissioner Lin’s proclamation to the foreigners. Thom completed the work overnight. It was available to foreigners on Tuesday morning and appeared in our edition of Tuesday evening.

That evening the Hongs requested the British and American merchants to attend them and 6-8 traders went to the Consoo House. They were told that should we thwart the Commissioner, they feared that two Hong merchants would be executed the following day.

Friday 22nd March It was rumoured that the Commissioner has requested to employ two cooks familiar with the preparation of western food and a house comprador who understood the foreigners’ residential needs. This rumour gave rise to the fear that the Commissioner would take hostages.

The quantity of opium that should be surrendered was widely discussed and four thousand chests was often mentioned. Dent has been approached by the Hong merchants and prevailed upon to enter the city with them tomorrow at the request of the Commissioner. We reminded him of the treatment of Flint and others and he finally agreed to go under a note of safe conduct, signed by the Commissioner himself.

Saturday 23rd March This morning How Qua, Mow Qua and other Hong merchants appeared at Dent’s house, stripped of their official buttons and with the first two wearing a length of chain over their heads, pendant to the shoulders. They said unless Dent entered the city, both How Qua and Mow Qua would be executed at dusk. Dent insisted on a safe conduct. A public meeting of all the foreigners was convened in the hall of the British consulate. A R Johnstone refused to admit How Qua and Mow Qua in light of their buttonless caps and chains denoting their degraded condition.

To satisfy Johnstone’s public scruples, the meeting was moved to the Chamber’s office where How Qua reiterated he expected to be executed if Dent failed to go. The Chairman said the Chamber was established for commercial purposes and should not seek to influence Dent in a political matter. How Qua asked what use was the Chamber if it could not generally represent its members. He asked whose position was reasonable – his or the Chamber’s. He queried whether doubtful procedural points had any relevance in a matter of life and death. The rule book of the Chamber was then studied and Article 19 of the Arbitration Rules seemed appropriate – “the arbitrators will not proceed until both parties agree to abide by their decision”. This was put to How Qua as reason for the Chamber’s non-involvement. How Qua then proposed and it was agreed that we should adjourn to Dent’s factory.

While this was going on, some foreign merchants were interviewing the Kwongchow Prefect at the Consoo House. When they left, young Morrison remained behind for two hours further discussion until Johnstone requested his presence.

Every one then attended at Dent’s house. The Hong merchants remained downstairs with 2-3 Chamber members while everyone else went upstairs. It was agreed Dent should not enter the city until the Commissioner’s safe conduct had been received. The Hong merchants were informed. Then the Nam Hoi Yuen and a Wei Yuen arrived at Dent’s house and Dent, together with his interpreter Thom, met them. The Wei Yuen said he had exceeded his orders in coming to Dent’s house but it was imperative that Dent should attend the Commissioner that day. He appealed to Dent’s sense of duty but Dent said he was restrained by the general wish of the foreign community that he should not go without a safe conduct. He said if he was forced to go he would not resist. The Wei Yuen repeated his request with the same result and finally said he would remain in Dent’s house overnight and never leave until Dent left with him.

Finally the Wei Yuen proposed that Inglis, the 2nd partner of Dent & Co, should personally deliver Dent’s refusal to the Kwongchow Prefect at the Consoo House. This was agreed. Inglis, Gray, Fearon, Thom and Editor Slade then went to the Consoo House to deliver the message. The Kwongchow Prefect said he would advise the Commissioner of Dent’s refusal. Gray remained at the Consoo House and the other four foreigners entered the city with the Linguists via the Chu Lan gate and were led to the Tien Hau temple. They were entertained by the priests until the provincial treasurer, the judge, and the salt and grain commissioners arrived. Then Thom was selected to answer questions and translate. He told the officials Dent was not allowed to come because the other foreigners did not expect him to be allowed to leave afterwards. Thom was told ‘Whether we detain him or not, he has shown disrespect to an Imperial Commissioner.’ Thom reiterated that it was the community at large that disallowed Dent’s attendance and he (Dent) himself never intended any disrespect. He said all the foreigners thought the Commissioner would detain Dent until some opium had been surrendered as it was widely said that the Commissioner believed Dent had 6,000 chests. The provincial judge retorted ‘That is not a rumour but a certainty. The Commissioner knows Dent has lived here many years and accumulated a great capital. Dent is a leading opium importer while the Commissioner is ordered to end the opium trade. Dent must attend to be admonished by the Commissioner and reveal all he knows of the trade. If he does not voluntarily go he will be dragged out of the factories and most certainly executed.’ Another officer said that should Dent voluntarily attend the Commissioner, the trade would be reopened. Inglis, Fearon and Slade were then questioned in the same way.

The treasurer then presented four pieces of red silk and two jars of wine to the foreign party and they were conducted back to the Consoo House by a detachment of troops. They returned to Dent’s house at 9 pm.

Sunday 24th March – We told How Qua today is a holy day and no work or official duties might be performed. He was pleased at the postponement.

Later that morning we received a circular from Elliot:

“I hear you are detained in Canton. I have lost confidence in the provincial government. I require all British ships to assemble at Hong Kong and prepare to defend themselves. In the absence of HMS Larne, Captain Parry of the receiving ship Hercules (or failing him Captain Wallace of the Mermaid) will command the defence of the fleet. I command you all to submit to the orders of Parry and Wallace.” Dated – Macau 22nd March.

At 6-7 pm that evening Elliot arrived at the factories in a boat of HMS Larne. He had set off from Macau in the cutter Louisa and changed boats at the forts. Some government boats pursued him up the river but the porter quickly unlocked the Hall doors and let Elliot in before they could catch-up with him. Elliot ordered the Union Jack be hoisted but we had no flag available so we hoisted the boat’s ensign. It is still up. He then called an immediate public meeting of all foreigners. Whilst this notice was being circulated, he set off for Dent’s factory in Pow Shing Hong, attended by many foreigners and a crowd of Chinese fascinated by his Port Captain’s uniform and the frisson of excitement. A few minutes later he returned to the British consulate with Dent and the meeting was held. He read the following notice:

“I have lost confidence in the provincial government for the following reasons:

  • The unprecedented public execution before the factories.
  • The imminent hazard to our lives and property.
  • Chinese disregard for representatives of Western governments.
  • The assembly of troops, warships, fire ships and other military preparations by the Chinese.
  • The non-availability of passports to leave Canton, and
  • The threatening language of the Commissioner and provincial officials.

“As peaceful relations are impossible until all these provocations have been satisfactorily explained, and some adequate undertaking provided against their recurrence, I will now demand passports for all those Britons who wish to leave and will permit the Canton government ten days to comply.

“If they have not indicated in three days of my request that passports will be provided, I will infer the community is being held prisoner in order to force unequal agreements on them. Such inference was already apparent in the threatened violence against Chinese Hong merchants, who are related to the foreigners by bonds of commerce and friendship, and the threatened violence against the Chinese servants of foreigners.

“I advise residents, after expiration of my deadline, to pack their possessions and move to the Reliance, Orwell or George IV at Whampoa for passage to Macau where the Portuguese government has already undertaken to protect British subjects to the best of its ability provided they obey Chinese law.

He requested each foreigner to prepare a list of his claims against Chinese subjects and an estimate of losses occasioned by the government’s recent actions. He warned everyone that future British action could not be prejudiced by anyone choosing to remain in Canton – such people would be on their own. He was submitting these views to all foreign subjects and their respective governments as a matter of his duty on such occasions.”

Dated 23rd March at Macau.

Sunday 24th March At about 9 pm, all the Chinese servants in the factories were withdrawn and further provisions were denied to foreigners. A detachment of troops surrounded the British consulate to prevent Dent’s escape. The employees of the various Hongs appeared with swords and shields, spears and staves to assist the soldiers. We saw all the cargo lighters had been anchored bow to stern along the river in a continuous line in front of the factories. Closer to the north bank were two rows of smaller boats similarly anchored.
Monday, 25th March A boat of the George IV which had been beached in the mouth of the creek in front of Creek Hong was seized.
Tuesday 26th March Most of the sailing and rowing boats of the foreigners were hauled to the middle of the square and turned over.
Wednesday 27th March (we have delayed publication of this edition to cover late-breaking events) Elliot commenced correspondence with the government. The three days allowed by Elliot for an indication whether passports will be available expires this evening. It is reported that our boat communications with Whampoa have been cut – otherwise everything is rather dull.

We end with Elliot’s Public Notice, issued this morning at 6 am:

“I am detained incommunicado in Canton with all the foreign community, without servants or food.

“Commissioner Lin has written to me directly, requiring me to deliver to him all opium in British hands. I must consider the lives and liberty of the entire foreign community. I now require all British subjects at Canton to surrender to me, on behalf of the British government, all opium in their possession or control; to subject all British shipping engaged in the opium trade to my control, and to provide me with details of all the opium in their possession.

“I hold myself responsible to every British subject involved, on behalf of HBM government, for this surrender.

“I caution all British subjects that the opium must be in my hands by 6 pm today and if there is any other opium neither I nor the British government shall be responsible. I will require proof that the opium is British and proof of its value.” Canton, 27th March

Editor – We have since been toasting Queen Victoria with copious draughts of wine – she has become the largest holder of opium in the planet’s history.39

Vol 12 No 13 – 26th March 1839

Edict of Hoppo Yu to the Hongs, 26th March:

Whilst the Commissioner is taking action against the opium traders, all shipping at Whampoa must cease to trade. No vessel may leave without a Port Clearance Certificate. The Tung Che at Macau has withdrawn pilot service temporarily. Enjoin this on the foreigners for their obedience.

Vol 12 No 14 – 2nd April 1839

Over 30 ships have arrived and are anchored in Macau roads. Their captains are reluctant to enter the river.

Vol 12 No 14 – 2nd April 1839

Editorial – the communications of Elliot with the Chinese government are secret. We hear both rumour and facts. Things we know to be true cannot yet be published. We will report what we can.40

Vol 12 No 14 – 2nd April 1839

Edict of Commissioner Lin to the Canton Governor, 27th March:

The foreign merchants of all nations have petitioned on 25th March that, as they are now aware of the Imperial decision to abolish the opium trade, they will pledge themselves not to deal in opium or import it into China. They say the other matters that I have put to them are beyond their power to respond to – they assert they are matters for discussion between the respective governments.

I am arranging a date with Elliot for delivery of the surrendered opium. I do not know the representatives of the other foreign nations. They should introduce themselves. This is for your information.

Vol 12 No 14 – 2nd April 1839

The American trader Charles W King (of Olyphant & Co) has petitioned the Commissioner on 25th March:

‘During the many years I have lived here I have never traded in opium or exported sycee and I have repeatedly dissuaded my colleagues from doing so. I accept the terms of your bond and pledge to comply with it. I have delayed replying as I had hoped to encourage some others to join me in this memorial. Now I should like to continue my trade. Please return my servants and let my ships come and go normally’.

The Commissioner’s reply, 26th March:

When I arrived here I heard about you. The removal of servants, the detention of the foreigners and the stoppage of trade are all related. They will continue until I have the unequivocal agreement of the foreign merchants to forego opium importing. Once all the stock has been surrendered there will be no reason to prevent trade. I recognise the inequity to you but I cannot allow your interests to potentially limit or frustrate my great purpose. I will allow you to trade again as soon as possible. You can assist me and yourself by urging your colleagues to surrender their opium and pledge themselves.

Vol 12 No 14 – 2nd April 1839

Editorial – the Hong merchants are saying the Commissioner was astonished at the quantity of opium that Elliot reported he would surrender on behalf of British traders. The value is so great he has asked for instructions from Peking. We hear he also intends to have the other Consuls deliver the opium of their nationals.

Vol 12 No 14 – 2nd April 1839

The Editor’s diary of events continues:

Friday 29th March The Linguists today brought coolies into the factories to supply water. The ferry boats are stuck in the river and their Lascar crews may be without food. We have had no communications with them since Monday. This evening the remainder of the foreign rowing and sailing boats were hauled up on the square and turned over.
Saturday 30th March The Commissioner has requested that opium surrendered to Elliot be handed over to the Chinese government. He is rumoured to have demanded that 10,000 chests of opium be surrendered within ten days. Elliot has told him that some ships in the opium fleet at Lintin have fled and he will have to recall them before the demand can be met.

This morning the Kwongchow Prefect and the county magistrates met the Hong merchants in the Consoo House for a lengthy meeting. Old China Street was closed for several hours. Afterwards the Nam Hoi heen and the Wei Yuen inspected the factory area. They found a fruit stall in front of Chung Ching’s candy shop and had it removed. Later a supply of sheep, pigs and chickens were delivered to Elliot for the detained foreigners but he declined them. Other household supplies were delivered direct to each factory. The livestock and household goods were provided free by the Hong merchants.

Some foreigners accepted and some refused.

Sunday 31st March This afternoon we learned our provisions will be supplied in future by the Linguists and we will have to pay for them. They are to replace the house compradors temporarily.
Monday 1st April Nothing happened.
Tuesday 2nd April The laundrymen returned, acting under licences issued by the Linguists.

Vol 12 No 14 – 2nd April 1839

Commissioner’s reply for Elliot, 27th March:

There are twenty-two opium store ships in the estuary and I have been given estimates of the quantities of opium in stock. Why does Elliot have such difficulty in discovering this information and reporting it? He should take care not to submit a false report least he be accused of concealment and deception.

Vol 12 No 14 – 2nd April 1839

Commissioner Lin has issued a general proclamation to the foreigners, dated 28th March, listing four reasons why they should quickly surrender their opium stocks:

  • First your humanity requires it. For decades you have duped the Chinese people by selling them opium. You have been concerned for your profits not for the people whose lives you have destroyed. You seem to believe you will receive no retribution. Only true repentance can now avert calamity – surrender your opium stock. The Emperor governs from a moral base. You should know that his opposition is the plainest indicator that your trade is contrary to Heaven. If Heaven is disgusted with opium, how can you oppose it? When Roberts (President of the Select) tried to seize Macau (Drury’s brief 1808 occupation), Heaven opposed him and he soon died there. In 1834 Napier entered the river without a passport and he soon died as well. Morrison, who deceived Napier, died at the instant of his deception. Besides these familiar names, very many opium smugglers have returned to their native countries and died before their time. When you create this opposition to Heaven in your minds, you influence your fate.
  • Secondly, it is our law that you surrender the opium. I hear you are forbidden to smoke opium in your own country (it is proscribed in British India) so you know it is destructive. If you do not consume it yourselves, why do you permit it to be sold to others. You say you are Christians. Do you not ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’? You depend on your China trade for your prosperity and maintenance. You spend more time here than in your own countries. Your fortunes derive from Imperial benevolence and you do better financially than Chinese people. It is you alone who disrespect our law. Formerly we enacted moderate penalties for opium offences and indulged you. Now you have so exceeded the bounds of propriety as to incite the loathing of our Emperor. Our new law requires capital punishment for all opium offences. You should reflect on this – if you did not bring the opium, our people would not have it and many of their deaths would be avoided. Why should Chinese alone die for your offence and you escape the net of the law? Nevertheless, I will spare your lives. You should surrender your opium and make the pledge to deal no more in it. If you resile from this pledge in future your cargo will be confiscated and your lives will be forfeited. My intention is to overlook your past offences and prevent their future occurrence. I have studied the Laws of the Ching dynasty and there is provision that whenever Chinese or foreigners break the law, they shall both be condemned under the same statute. We have occasionally taken one of your lives on the principle of ‘a life for a life’. Taking a life in anger is achieved in an instant but taking a man’s life and money, as you do with opium, is a slow incremental process. It requires extraordinary punishment. How can you still hesitate to surrender your stock?
  • Thirdly, you operate a vibrant and profitable trade here. When opium trade is ended, your other businesses will much increase. You can make abundant profits without breaking the law. Is that not a cause for happiness and delight? But if opium importation continues, your entire trade will be ended. Then where will you get your tea and the many other things you buy here. How will you dispose of your own manufactures? All that trade will be ended in the same way that the opium trade is now stopped. No Chinese dares to deal in it yet you continue to hold onto your stocks. You have to pay the crews of your receiving ships and maintain the ships themselves for no return. You should surrender your opium and reap the rewards for doing so.
  • Fourthly, it is unavoidable that you must surrender your opium. Your ability to trade depends on your harmonious connections with your fellow men. If you continue to trade in opium, what honourable or upstanding man will communicate with you? You should be anxious for the temper of the Chinese people – they are appalled and indignant at your behaviour. Do you wish to bring the wrath of the entire country down on yourselves? If the people chose to oppose you it will be difficult for us to restrain them. You say you are honourable people. I appealed to your honour but found it absent in you and you seem to be unconcerned about it. Can you understand this fourth point? Then where is your difficulty? Opium is a proscribed substance. Why are you reluctant to part with it? You do not need it in your own country. It would be pointless to take it back with you. Once you surrender it your trade will resume its usual abundant profitability. The senior provincial officials do not wish to be harsh with you. We will not shrink from urging and arousing your sense of honour and justice.

I cannot believe I am wasting my time in writing to you. Happiness or misery, glory or disgrace – these are the choices. It is up to you. Do not later say you were not warned.

Vol 12 No 14 – 2nd April 1839

Commissioner’s further reply to Elliot, 28th March:

“Elliot offers to surrender 20,283 chests from the receiving ships. This is the entire English stock-in-hand. The offer represents a responsible act by him. He says there is some more in other ports. He neglects to mention opium hidden in the factories or aboard the shipping at Whampoa.

“Elliot should report the factory opium tomorrow and the Whampoa opium the next day. I shall personally visit the Bogue shortly to check the opium in the receiving ships. Elliot will also report the amount of opium in other ports. If punishment for past offences is to be overlooked, there must be a complete surrender of every particle of opium.

“The American, French and Dutch consuls are also required to report the holders, location and amounts of opium possessed by their nationals, and then await examination.”

Vol 12 No 14 – 2nd April 1839

Commissioner’s reply to Wetmore, Chamber Chairman, 29th March:

You have sent me the names of three consuls. I require those consuls to report on the opium held by their nationals. You should admonish them to respond urgently.

Vol 12 No 14 – 2nd April 1839

Commissioner Lin’s reply to Elliot, 29th March:

“Elliot yesterday promised to deliver 20,283 chests. I have praised him and directed him to deliver the opium at certain times and places. I have given him a list of rules that will govern the surrender. I have required him to obtain authorisations for my officials to attend on the receiving ships for collection. He now reports there is no opium in the factories or at Whampoa. It has been the practise of the foreigners to write Opium Delivery Orders in the factories for the Chinese smugglers and these papers are taken by fast boat to the receiving ship to obtain delivery. Does Elliot not know this? He now says the winter monsoon has commenced, the receiving ships must shift anchorage and some may take the chance to sail away. But I hear all the store ships are in the estuary as before and appear disposed to await instruction. Why does Elliot try to stir things up with talk of the weather? He has accepted responsibility. How can he avoid the onerous repercussions if they sail away?

“Elliot protests the detention of the foreign community, the absence of servants, and the non-availability of the ferry service to Macau. I commanded the foreigners to surrender their opium on 18th March. Everything was normal until 24th March when Elliot arrived and tried to remove Dent from my jurisdiction. I then stationed cruisers in the river to observe the faithless foreigners. The servants have been confused and subverted by the foreigners and no longer understood their duty. How could they not be removed?

“When Elliot produced his statement of opium to be surrendered, I immediately rewarded him with gratuitous livestock and provisions – is this how prisoners are treated?

“Every Chinese official deals with foreigners in two ways – either with justice or with favour. Those who show contempt receive justice; those who are obedient are favoured.

“Elliot will obtain the Orders for the store-ships so the opium may be surrendered and normal trade resumed. Where is the difficulty? Why does he change the subject instead of attending to his duty? Who cannot see through such artfulness. Do not again prevaricate and create a cause for your future repentance.”

Vol 12 No 14 – 2nd April 1839

Commissioner Lin’s reply to Elliot 30th March:

“Elliot proposes to send his deputy Johnstone to Macau to organise the delivery of opium. Previously Elliot said he had the power to require surrender of the opium. Why can he not order the opium holders to obey him? What use is this journey of Johnstone’s? This continual wriggling by the British representative is unbecoming conduct.

“It is widely known that the foreign opium sellers never make mistakes in their deliveries. For that reason, I have requested that their usual system for delivering opium from the store ships is to be followed on this occasion. Each holder will prepare Orders to the receiving ship for delivery. Elliot has repeatedly claimed both authority and responsibility to handle this matter. Why does he not act?

“Neither trade nor the ferry boats will resume until this matter is concluded. Elliot should act straightforwardly and without any trace of crookedness. His petition is returned.”

Vol 12 No 14 – 2nd April 1839

A further entry in the Editor’s diary:

Monday 1st April A letter of the Hongs to the foreigners (seen suspended from the garden gate of the British consulate) states:

“We regret we are unable to induce any Chinese to serve you in the factories. The servants fear the factories might be searched and, should they be discovered therein, they expect to be executed. If, in spite of this information, you allure Chinese to work for you and they are caught and executed, we will consider you solely responsible for their deaths.”

Editor – this is just a frolic of the Hongs. If servants are legally executed no-one other than the government is responsible.

Commissioner Lin to the Chamber:

“The Americans should surrender their opium too. I have ordered Snow (US honorary Consul) to do so. Snow will account to me for American opium so it may be surrendered at the same time as the British supply. Wetmore, on behalf of the Chamber, has sought to trifle with me. It is important he deliver the opium now. Wetmore will obey the law and give an account of the American opium which Snow is to surrender. I commend Wetmore not to attempt any further delay or deception. Oppose me no more.”

Wednesday 3rd April Elliot to the British community,:

“Arrangements have been concluded with the Commissioner whereby the opium you have surrendered to me will be handed-over. After one quarter has been delivered the servants will be restored; after half is delivered the ferry boats will recommence service; after three quarters is delivered, trade will be reopened and after complete delivery everything will resume normally (Editor – I don’t know what he means by this last).

“In the event that deliveries are not made as agreed, after three days delay the fresh water supply will be cut, after three more days food supplies will be stopped and after three days more I will be executed. I am satisfied that our liberty depends on compliance with the Commissioner’s schedule.”

Vol 12 No 14 – 2nd April 1839

Death – Richard Turner, proprietor of the major Canton firm of Turner & Co, has died in Macau on 28th March after a two-month illness.

Vol 12 No 15 – Tuesday 9th April 1839

The Linguists report that over 40 ships have arrived since the stoppage of trade commenced and are now anchored in Macau roads.

Vol 12 No 15 – Tuesday 9th April 1839

The Editor’s daily journal of events at Canton continues:

Wednesday 3rd April This morning the entrances to the factories from New China Street, Luen Hong Street and Hog Lane were bricked-up. We believe the purpose is to protect us from the mob but these brick walls will be more easily overcome than the wooden gates they replace.

The price of rice (usual cause of riots) remains cheap at $2 per picul.

At 6 pm Johnstone and Thom boarded a chop boat for Macau from whence they will arrange the delivery of the opium from the Lintin store ships. They were attended by Chinese troops, Hong merchants and Linguists,

Thursday 4th April Nothing happened.
Friday 5th April A translation of the sweet (voluntary) bond drafted by the Hongs for signature by those responsible for regulating foreign traders was presented to the General Chamber this afternoon.

The committee chose to defer discussion until Monday. It is to be signed by Elliot and Johnstone for the British, …… for the Parsees, …… for the Muslims, …… (national representative) for each of the national groups. It is intended to perpetually end the opium trade. The terms are:

We hereby pledge ourselves on behalf of the (name of group or nation) merchants trading at Canton that certain greedy persons have brought opium, intent on having it smuggled into China illegally, and the award for such offence is death.

In fear, we surrender all our opium and beg the Emperor to overlook our past offences. We will send away our receiving ships and petition our King to forbid both the manufacture of opium and any further importation of it into China.

If opium is discovered after Autumn 1839 in any ship arriving here that is under the control of our merchants, the ship and cargo will be liable to confiscation and all concerned voluntarily consent to their own judicial execution. For those ships already en route to China with opium, we undertake to surrender every particle discovered on board.

Saturday 6th April On 23rd March the back doors of the Dutch, British, Creek, Fung Tai, Pow Shun, Spanish and Danish hongs were loosely obstructed. Today the Chinese had to re-secure the opened back door of Creek Hong.
Sunday 7th April Rev Abiel gave a sermon in the factories ‘lay not up for yourselves treasures on Earth’.
Monday 8th April The General Chamber met to discuss the Co-Hong’s required bond. Delano proposed (seconded H Rustomjee) that this Chamber is a commercial body and should not involve itself in political matters. It should not commit itself to engagements it cannot fulfil. Our trade is stopped, we are surrounded by soldiers and our communications with the outside world are cut. We should suspend activities until things return to normal. This was agreed unanimously.

Bell proposed (seconded G T Braine) that the above resolution be advised to the Hong merchants.

This evening Snow, Senn van Basel (US & Dutch Consuls), Wetmore (Chamber Chairman), Charles W King and interpreter Fearon met the Kwongchow prefect, the Poon Yu and Nam Hoi heens, the Wei Yuen, How Qua, Mow Qua, Sam Qua and several of the Linguists at the Consoo House. The English were invited but none attended, they having submitted to Elliot’s leadership. The meeting was cordial. The four foreigners were allowed to sit. The Prefect insisted all foreigners must sign the bond. The representatives declined saying either the terms were too onerous or they lacked the power to commit their governments. After two hours the Prefect declared the bonds must be signed by noon tomorrow and the Consuls left.

Tuesday 9th April How Qua has received a letter from Macau saying Johnstone arrived Sunday 7th April to find two receiving ships had removed to Lankeet, nearer the Bogue. He is going there today in Louisa with two Hong merchants, etc.

Vol 12 No 15 – Tuesday 9th April 1839

Editorial – We must protest. We have already complied with Lin’s proclamation of 18th March and agreed to surrender 20,283 chests of British opium to Elliot. We have pledged not to trade in opium again. What more does Lin want? The terms of the bond are beyond our compliance.

Lin should cease disgracing China with his armed blockade of the factories. 200+ foreigners are threatened with starvation and judicial execution. Imperial compassion should be manifested. We were promised rewards for compliance with Lin’s demands, not monstrous bonds.

Well, well, the World must turn upon its axis,
And all mankind turn with it, heads or tails,
And live and die and pay the Emperor’s taxes,
And as the veering wind shifts, shift our sails.
Old Lin commands us and the Doctor quacks us,
The priest instructs, and so our life exhales,
And, surrendering our opium to the nation
We patiently await remuneration.41

Vol 12 No 15 – Tuesday 9th April 1839

Commissioner Lin to the foreign Consuls, 28th March:

“I represent the Emperor. I have ordered the surrender of the opium stocks and the provision of bonds never to bring it here again. Snow, van Basel and van Loffet (the French Agent) know this.

“On 27th March all the foreigners undertook never to bring opium but their agreement was conditional. They said important matters must be handled by their national representatives. The surrender of opium is clearly an important matter. They also said the opium belongs to many people of differing nationalities and had to be dealt with by their governments. I therefore require you Consuls to involve yourselves in this matter and prepare lists of the opium in your nationals’ possession.

“Elliot has already reported 20,283 chests in British hands which he is agreeable to surrender and I have arranged with him for its delivery. The opium trafficking of the Americans and other nations equals the British trade but you have not revealed the details. Send in your reports and I will notify you of the time for inspection and delivery. Conceal nothing. If you comply implicitly with my order your nation’s past offences will be overlooked and I will petition the Emperor for your reward. If you involve yourselves in crime your later repentance will be unavailing.”

Vol 12 No 15 – Tuesday 9th April 1839

Commissioner Lin to Consul Snow, 30th March:

“Concerning your petition earlier today, Elliot has surrendered the British opium and says he has no control over other nations. I asked you for a statement of American opium and you say your 1,540 chests are already included with Elliot’s opium. Which of you is to be believed?

“You must obey and conceal nothing. The Prefect will take this to the Hong merchants for them to impress my commands upon Snow.”

Vol 12 No 15 – Tuesday 9th April 1839

Commissioner Lin to Consul Senn van Basel, 1st April:

“You say in your submission yesterday that no Dutchman owns opium. You have asked the Hoppo for a passport to Macau and a Port Clearance Certificate for the Dutch ship at Whampoa but he has not supplied either. You conclude you are being detained and insist on leaving.

“At present the opium has not been surrendered. I cannot loosen my grip on the foreigners for the sake of a single man or a single ship. If you have no opium and wish to leave you should assist me by urging the others to comply with my demands. Thereafter trade will resume and you and your ship may go where you wish.”

Vol 12 No 15 – Tuesday 9th April 1839

Commissioner Lin to Senn van Basel, 5th April:

“You reiterate your demand for passports for the Dutch community. I have told you I will not compromise my measures for one man until all the opium has been surrendered.

“Elliot has sent Johnstone to Macau and the Nine Islands (off Zhuhai) to collect and deliver the opium. When he has completed his task I will quickly check and receive the Drug. Then all restraints on the foreigners will be removed and trade recommenced. You should be patient.”

Vol 12 No 16 – Tuesday 16th April 1839

Our diary of events continues:

Wednesday 10th April The Hoppo went to the Bogue this morning followed by the Commissioner and Viceroy Tang this afternoon.
Thursday 11th April The Imperial Commissioner’s official retinue passed through Whampoa this morning. The foreign shipping withheld all marks of respect.
Friday 12th April At 3 pm the provincial treasurer, judge, salt and grain commissioners visited the square in front of the factories and enquired of the Hong merchants, who have been on duty outside the British consulate since 24th March, whether Dent and Elliot were still inside. On this being confirmed they asked details of the foreign residents in the Dutch and Creek hongs. They then returned to the city in their chairs via Old China Street.
Johnstone was requested by a Chinese official to arrange for joint search of the receiving ships but he declined to discuss it and sent the official back to his own boat.
Elliot published a notice to owners of opium ships on the China coast: “Those of you who have given a pledge not to introduce opium to China should recall your ships as soon as possible. I remind those who have not pledged themselves, of whatever nationality, that the lives and liberty of the foreigners now detained at Canton depend on your forbearance. A seizure of opium on the coast would provide a pretext for continued detention or worse.”
Saturday 13th April Advices from the east coast have reached Canton reporting the sale of 100 chests at $450 per chest. It was this information that occasioned Elliot’s warning yesterday.42

The Commissioner has told Elliot by letter to order the British opium ships up to Chuen Pi. Deliveries can be better accomplished at that sheltered anchorage. Reportedly, the Commissioner has been affected by sea-sickness.

A large number of coolies appeared very early this morning in the square and some compradors have returned.

We hear some 50 chests of opium were surrendered at the Soko Islands (south of Lantau) on Thursday or Friday.

Before he left Canton last Wednesday, the Commissioner gave his complete order to the Viceroy permitting the return of the servants in certain unknown circumstances. The Viceroy is yet to publish the order.

There is a rumour emanating from Elliot of intended British opposition. We should imitate the Chinese and say nothing on the subject.

Sunday 14th April The Rev Bridgman conducted divine service and preached on 2 Corinthians 5, 10 – “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad”

Elliot has received Johnstone’s advice from Chuen Pi (dated 12th April) that 650 chests had been surrendered from the Hercules and Austen receiving ships. The slow pace is due to an initial dearth of boats and is expected to soon double. The other receiving ships Jane, Ariel, Mermaid, Ruparell and Lady Grant have already been called to Chuen Pi to commence deliveries. On receipt of this news, Elliot requested our servants be instantly restored.

Vol 12 No 31 – 30th July 1839

Penang Gazette, 15th June – Old notice of Elliot to the British community that was not published in the Canton newspapers. Dr Anderson, the surgeon of the British Commission, brought this copy to Penang:

The safety of all foreigners detained in Canton, the immense value of our China trade and slow communications that delay provision for our relief, together require me to strictly order all British captains to cease delivering opium unless to the Chinese government for its surrender.

I will inform you when the surrender is complete.

I will not dwell on the sordid conduct of those in the outer waters who have driven me to accept responsibility for the present measures. If they do not stop selling opium I will summarily execute condign justice upon them and will name and shame them here, in India and England.

I request all just men to not countenance or assist these opium traders.

Vol 12 No 16 – Tuesday 16th April 1839

From an undoubted source we have learned that Johnstone and Thom arrived off Macau on 7th April to discover they were prisoners. Only Thom was allowed ashore to deliver letters under escort of some Hong merchants and Linguists. On his return he interpreted a friendly interview between Johnstone and the Chinese officials.

On Monday Johnstone boarded the Louisa. Thom was initially detained against Johnstone’s return but was allowed to join Johnstone later that day.

On Tuesday the wind freshened and both the chop boat and Louisa entered the inner harbour for shelter.

On Wednesday the Louisa sailed for the Soko Islands. It ‘spoke’ with HMS Larne at Lintin en voyage and arrived at the Soko’s the same night. On returning to Chuen Pi, Johnstone called the Chinese from Macau to join him and the 50 chests of Patna he brought from the Soko’s were delivered before nightfall.

On Friday the Hercules and Austen arrived at Chuen Pi and delivered respectively 400 chests Malwa and 200 Patna. At 8 pm that Friday (12th April – the time our letter was sent) no chest had been opened.

The High Officials are at Chuen Pi. The Commissioner is living in a temporary structure at Anson’s Bay. They are supplying water ballast to the ships and have offered fresh provision gratis but these have been declined. The captains insist they will pay for what they need.

Vol 12 No 16 – Tuesday 16th April 1839

The Editor’s diary continues:

Monday 15th April Elliot has invited tenders for the charter to the British Commission of a first-class armed clipper for at least seven months commencing in one week’s time. The projected voyage does not require a transit of the Cape of Good Hope (i.e. to India not England).

It is reported this evening that boats laden with opium are in the river below the factories.

Tuesday 16th April 3,000 chests had reportedly been delivered from Whampoa by Sunday evening. The Chinese boats carrying this precious Drug left Whampoa reach yesterday. Each flies a yellow flag with black characters.

Vol 12 No 16 – Tuesday 16th April 1839

Editorial – It seems the end is in sight. In that belief, we have been researching the precedents for our treatment. Such an extensive robbery under the specious plea of morality has never before occurred in the history of commerce.

  • The first approximate precedent is the massacre at Amboinya in 1622. According to Harris’ Voyages, all the British residents were arrested by the Dutch for conspiring with Japanese soldiers under Dutch command to seize the castle. They were put in irons and imprisoned. All the stock and equipment of the English factory was confiscated. Most of the English, the 11 Japanese and a Portuguese were tortured. Then 10 English, 9 Japanese and the Portuguese were executed. 4 English and 2 Japanese survivors reported the facts. The East India Company protested to King James who took no action. They hung pictures of the massacre in their offices but were required to remove them. They were disheartened and English trade to Asia declined. Sir William Courten took advantage of the situation to get a Royal Warrant for six large ships to trade East in competition with the Company. They had immensely profitable trade but the Dutch sank the two largest ships as they returned around the Cape and overall the voyage was ultimately loss-making. Further voyages were attacked. When King Charles succeeded James he obtained an indemnity of 85,000 Guilders from the Dutch states of Holland and Zeeland which proves they accepted responsibility.
    Under Cromwell’s Commonwealth we declared war on the Dutch which ended in 1654 with an agreement that the United Provinces would inter alia punish those responsible for the Amboinya massacre. A bi-lateral commission was established which ordered £3,615 compensation to the administrators of the deceaseds’ estates. Thereafter the East India Company’s trade became prosperous.
  • The second approximation is taken from Russell’s Modern Europe concerning reparations for damages occasioned by the Spanish coast guard. This concerned the monopolisation by Spain of the trade of the South American colonies into which markets English merchants were assiduously smuggling. Spain agreed to pay the involved English traders £95,000 against their losses but did not do so. Walpole declared war and this led to Anson’s voyage and the reduction of Porto Bello.
  • The more recent examples of Napier’s treatment and the losses occasioned by the stoppage of trade in 1834 were allowed to pass unnoticed.

The present incident will cause a better result. The British government is obliged to repay us for our opium – it’s as certain as interest on a government bond. The national credit depends on prompt discharge. What is not yet evident is that security against future violence will be provided. The development of our China trade has forced merchants and manufacturers to recognise that a new order of things is required. We need a new deal with China. The resident British merchants must plead their case before the parliament and public of England. Britain’s China trade brings an annual revenue of £5 millions to the government. It is crucial to the revenue of India. There must be no wavering imbecility by British politicians.

Commissioner Lin has insulted every government in the civilised world. British trade to China must be protected and promoted with more vigour than has hitherto been displayed by the administration.

Vol 12 No 17 – 23rd April 1839


  • The Editor of Canton Register (John Slade) is now printing a narrative of recent events in Canton for sale (it is the diary reproduced above and below)
  • J M & Co, Dent & Co, Turner & Co and Bell & Co all have advertisements this week for ships to London and Calcutta. J M & Dents are advertising for additional cargo; Bell and Turner are offering ships for voyage charters. The outside trade is continuing but at a slower pace than prior to Commissioner Lin’s arrival.

Vol 12 No 17 – 23rd April 1839

The Editor’s diary of events continues:

Tuesday 16th April This afternoon a report of the surrender of a further 1,000 chests was received at Canton.
Wednesday 17th April The Austen was completely discharged on 15th and the Hercules on 16th April. The Jane and Ariel commenced discharging on 15th April. They are accepting ballast and provisions from the Chinese but send out their own boats with watering parties.

Elliot has received advice from Johnstone dated 15th. He confirms the presence of the four above ships at Chuen Pi and estimates 7,000 chests will have been delivered by end 16th April. He says the remaining receiving ships Mithras, Mermaid, Ruparell and Lady Grant are expected to arrive Chuen Pi soon.

Thursday 18th April Some compradors and servants have returned to work at the factories, after giving bonds to the Kwongchow Prefect for their performance. Others are unwilling to make the commitment.

In response to Elliot’s advertisement for a fast ship to India, Dent’s clipper Ariel has been chartered by the British Commission at $8,000 for 7 months and pro rata per additional month.

Friday 19th April More of the servants returned to the factories today but several house compradors have stayed away.
Saturday 20th April Some of the servants who recently returned have again departed.

Vol 12 No 17 – 23rd April 1839

On Saturday 20th April, we obtained a copy of the terms of the comprador’s licence being issued by the Heung Shan heen at Casa Branca (responsible for Macau) which is the agreement that our Canton compradors are required to sign:

“All compradors for foreigners will in future be selected by the Tung Che at Macau. They must be honest and responsible Chinese. They will be secured by bonds agreeing the liability of their families for their performance. If they trade contraband or do any other thing except supply provisions to the foreigners, if they smuggle or conduct themselves irregularly, they will suffer the legal penalty.

Now …… (name) who was last year comprador to the foreign merchant …… (name) has surrendered his old licence and taken out this new licence. While he lives in Macau or Canton, he will buy those provisions in the attached list for the foreigner and no others. If he serves any other foreigner he will be punished. This licence must be renewed annually”

The Kwongchow foo and the heens of Poon Yu and Nam Hoi are also jointly issuing instructions to house compradors at Canton:

“To the comprador of …… Factory. Compradors obtain their licenses from the Tung Che at Macau. When the Emperor ordered an end to the opium trade, those foreigners unwilling to surrender their opium had their compradors and servants withdrawn. Now the foreigners are surrendering their opium and they appear to have become obedient. Although one quarter of the opium has not yet been given up, the compradors and servants may resume their employment.

The Hong merchants will select applicants for the job of comprador and present them at the public offices for enquiry. Successful applicants may buy provisions for the foreigners, per attached list. No contraband may be bought or sold and no deceit is permitted. There must be absolute compliance with the terms proclaimed by the Tung Che.

The permitted provisions are pork, lamb, chicken and duck (and their eggs), fruit, grain, vegetables and pastries.

In the afternoon Provincial officials again requested Elliot and the Dutch and American Consuls to have their nationals all sign bonds. The Hong merchants were insistent but all three declined.

Vol 12 No 17 – 23rd April 1839

Editorial – we should test the determination of the Commissioner to get these bonds signed. No-one should sign unless under immediate threat of execution. To deter pusillanimity we should recall the following:

Let those weak minds who live in doubt and fear
To juggling priests for oracles repair;
One certain hour of death to each decreed
My fixed and certain soul from doubt has freed.

Rambler, 17 “We can hasten but not avoid death. It is accordingly unwise to buy reprieve at the expense of virtue since we never know if we are striking a good deal. Whether short or long, any such reprieve becomes less valuable when its price is recalled. Buying reprieve destroys happiness and may not extend life”.

Vol 12 No 17 – 23rd April 1839

More from the Editor’s diary:

Sunday 21st April Rev Parker conducted divine service in the factories. The sermon was based on 86th psalm “In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee for thou wilt answer me”.
Monday 22nd April We suppose half the opium has been delivered by now. The Louisa is expected at Chuen Pi this evening. Elliot has been in contact with the officials but no details are available. We have been discussing the numbers of servants we need but nothing is fixed yet. This detention is becoming boring.

Vol 12 No 17 – 23rd April 1839

Editorial – we have been trying to comprehend what has happened to us. With the exception of the old massacre at Amboinya which we mentioned in our last issue, we can find no precedent for our atrocious detention. In an effort to understand, we have reviewed some of the Chinese Edicts.

We suspect the Commissioner’s Imperial instructions derive from Heu Kiu’s memorial in 1836:

“The foreigners are isolated in the factories. We should treat them severely and detain them. We should acquaint them with the law and compel them to remove their receiving ships. We should compel them to write to their King about their opium trade and the injury it has caused to us, saying we have executed our own people for involvement but have not punished the foreigners themselves. If the receiving ships do not return we may then release them to continue their legal trade. If the receiving ships come back and the foreigners again allure Chinese to their deaths, their trade will be stopped and the involved foreigners will be executed. Although these foreigners have the natures of dogs, they care to preserve their own lives. They will seek for gain and flee from danger.”

There is also Viceroy Tang’s proclamation of January this year:

“Divest yourselves of opium, send the receiving ships away, do not permit your other ships to roam about. Carry on your business quietly to enjoy profits forever. But if you continue greedily as at present then you go beyond legal protection. Why should we constantly worry about you and punish our own people. If we ask the Emperor to stop foreign trade forever he will do it. Then, whether you bring opium or not, your tea supply will cease. You should recognise that you are in China which is subject to our law.”

And Chow Tien Chiu’s memorial:

“We must willingly forego the revenue from tea exports to stop the greater loss from opium importing. When their trade is stopped the foreigners will be fearful. We should execute several tens of the foreign ring-leaders and several hundreds of their Chinese accomplices. When they recognise our implacability they will become submissive and we can relax the ban on tea exports to a certain limit but we should always retain the final approval for any exports. They can be allowed no voice in the process. Then they will be deterred from illegality. We do not have to give them any notice of our intent – we can start immediately.”

Finally Lin’s own order of 18th March:

“You have ships in the estuary with thousands of chests of opium for smuggling. You should remember how strictly we are now enforcing the law. Who will smuggle the opium for you? Every province is acting in concert. How can you sell it? We mean business so why do you keep your stocks here, wasting your money and exposing your ships to storms and fires. Surrender your opium. The Hong merchants will make lists of who surrenders what. We will destroy it all.

“You must give a bond in Chinese and foreign words that your ships will not bring opium again and, should they do so, you agree the cargo will be confiscated and the responsible people executed. If you continue to resist our authority, making excuses and using the names of innocent seamen to introduce your Drug; or if you say you will take it away and then sail to another province for sales; or if you surrender 10 or 20% now intending to resume your trade later, then although it is our policy to be kind to foreigners we cannot permit your continued contempt for our law and will execute you as we do our own people.

“I have the Emperor’s commands which must be obeyed. This is not a routine matter, I have full powers to enforce the Imperial will. I have sworn to stay here until the opium trade is ended. There can be no half-measures. Moreover every Chinese is indignant and opposed to you. If you do not reform yourselves and continue to chase profits whatever the source, then either our soldiers and sailors will sweep you away or the people themselves will arise and annihilate you. I can also stop your trade or close the port to you. We have no difficulty in ending the foreign trade perpetually. The Chinese Empire is huge and produces everything we need. Don’t think you bring anything essential for us. The foreign trade is for your benefit more than ours. You are few and we are many.”

Editor – of these four, Heu Kiu, Chow and Viceroy Tang do not mention our surrendering opium. Its only Lin who demands surrender of opium, threatens us with starvation, and Elliot with execution. This divergence permits the inference that the next Imperial Edict might well require some different treatment for us.

We have been detained and frightened. Perhaps he will compassionately order our release? He may even order our opium be returned to us for how can he justify its seizure. Had the Chinese seized the opium by feats of arms, the receiving ships would be their prizes but Lin’s way of obtaining our opium is indefensible. It’s a breach of national faith to imprison us. If Chinese law is inimical to the rest of mankind and denies our right of free trade, if China commits robbery to achieve its ends, then it is the Chinese government and its ridiculous claims of authority that is to blame.

Vol 12 No 17 – 23rd April 1839

The Editor of the Singapore Free Press writes that the back doors of some of the factories are bricked-up to prevent our smuggling. He should not be so quick to condemn us before condemning the Chinese. He has relied on a Edict of the Hoppo for his information. To take sides and support only one party to a dispute is unjust.

Vol 12 No 18 – 30th April 1839

Editorial – On 19th March the Hoppo imprisoned us. On 3rd April the Commissioner threatened our Queen. Under duress, Elliot has complied with the Commissioner’s order.

Lin promised the return of our servants and the resumption of ferry services after respectively a quarter and a half of the opium had been surrendered. Both promises are unfulfilled. The diary continues …..

Tuesday 23rd April The Hong merchants reported that 11,800 chests have been surrendered.
Wednesday 24th April Nothing happened.
Thursday 25th April We remain detained.
Friday 26th April Three distressed Lascar seamen, who were rescued on the East Coast recently, have been brought to Canton and released to us.
Saturday 27th April The Cowasjee Family (an opium ship) has arrived from Calcutta.
Sunday 28th April 14,000 chests have reportedly been surrendered.

Rev Peter Parker held divine service. The sermon was on 2 Corinthians 7, 10 ‘For Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of; but the sorrow of the world worketh death’.

Monday 29th April USS Columbia (Reid) arrived at Macau.
Tuesday 30th April Nothing happened.

Vol 12 No 19 – 7th May 1839

The USS John Adams has arrived to join the USS Colombia at Macau.

Vol 12 No 19 – 7th May 1839

Trade has been re-opened and we will now cease publishing our daily journal of events. At noon on Sunday the Kwongchow foo came into the square and dismissed the guard. He ordered the triple tier cordon of ships along the river to be disassembled. The river route to and from Canton is reopened except for the 16 banned ferry boats.

Vol 12 No 19 – 7th May 1839

As we publish, we hear 18,000 chests have been surrendered. We hear the Chinese servants of the Portuguese at Macau have been withdrawn.

A temporary shelter has been built on top of Jackass Point, that favourite foreign resort in the evenings, to form a base from which the officials observe for ferry boats.43 A muster of the first departing foreigners was held by the Kwong heep.

Vol 12 No 19 – 7th May 1839

Thom arrived at Canton today (Tuesday) from Chuen Pi where he has been assisting Johnstone. Coming up he saw a new fort under construction at the Bogue. Booms and chains were being laid across the river.

On arrival at How Qua’s fort, the official-in-charge politely asked Thom to interview but it was a pretext to visually identify him. Once the official recognised Thom he waved him away saying “I’ve seen his face.”

Vol 12 No 19 – 7th May 1839

Mow Qua died last night at 7 pm. He has for years had a tumour on his abdomen which may have contributed to his death. He was aged about 54 years. He was the most respected of the Co-Hong.

Vol 12 No 19 – 7th May 1839

Editorial – In light of the Commissioner’s actions, the British government should consider returning the China-trade to the control of the Company. The Company would likely accept our claims for opium compensation in order to recover its former tea and silk business.

The Company can stop Bengal production of opium and can influence opium farming in Malwa, at least by making difficult its receipt at Bombay and transportation therefrom. It could also demand the restoration of its old trading rights at Amoy and Ningpo – then it would have three trading ports with all the advantages that choice brings.

The representatives of the free trade at Canton should consider this.

1 This replacement of all Customs Dept staff at Canton suggests Peking has started tackling the problem of reduced revenue from foreign trade.

2 Thom has received instruction in Mandarin Chinese (which he uses to interpret the Edicts of officials) from a teacher known in Cantonese as Man Mui. Together they have translated and printed a Chinese version of Aesop’s Fables.

3 See the Opium chapter for the expulsion of leading smugglers. Readers will recall the King Qua debts arose from illegal loans – hence the absence of earlier claims.

4 It is the small traders who use ferry boats to get their contraband to Canton. The big smugglers are buying Chinese civil and military assistance and using those officers’ government boats for delivery.

5 Fanqui is a Mandarin version of the Cantonese Farn Gwai – foreign devil.

6 Waghorn, an East India Company employee and sometime British Resident in Egypt, was involved in the early development of the overland (Port Said, Suez, Red Sea) route to Bombay.

7 The count in single threads of cotton – 66s or 72s, etc., – shows the density / weight of the cloth.

8 The small community of foreign traders at Canton endeavours to exclude others to preserve their own profitability and market share but the extent of business is simply too great from any of them to attend professionally to all the business. This involvement of the Viceroy in petty trade is the policy of the British merchants, probably originating with H H Lindsay. The Viceroy, formerly based at Liu Chow in Kwong Si but now often in Kwong Doong at Canton, governs both Kwong Doong and Kwong Si provinces.

9 I have adopted a formality used in the J M & Co archive of calling opium the Drug with a big D to distinguish it from ‘drugs’ – the trade in senna, rhubarb root and the many other purges.

The missionary’s recognition here of the trader’s addiction to profit has reminded me of a trite but amusing observation in “Flowers in the Blood’ – “they sold us caffeine, we sold them morphine”

10 The Canton Shih is said to be 130 catties. Elsewhere the Shih is 180 catties.

11 By comparision, American and French taxes in 1815 were calculated by Talleyrand at 22d per person and British taxes at £1.20d per person – see the Economy chapter. The contribution of Customs duty on all China’s foreign trade is less than 9% of total revenue.

12 This is the case Elliot has reported. It has not yet appeared in the newspaper.

13 It will shortly transpire that several of the foreign factories have opened doors from the rear of their buildings directly into Thirteen Factories Street where numerous silversmiths work thereby circumventing the government guards at the street entrances.

14 A rare concession from Editor Slade who hitherto approved the Hong merchants suggestion that the Lintin trade is in ‘the outer waters’ beyond Chinese jurisdiction.

15 It is the new small free-traders who have appeared since the Company lost its trade monopoly and has been restricted to trade finance. They smuggle a few chests up the river in small boats, using the Company’s finance to increase their purchasing power. Their interests are opposed to the major smugglers.

16 Johnstone appears to trade on his own account through a company registered in Singapore – A R Johnstone & Co.

17 The Mentor in 1820.

18 Readers will recall Robinson moved the British Trade Commission from Macau to on board the Company’s sloop Louisa and anchored the ship off Lintin Island to more expeditiously sign ships’ papers as requested by the mercantile community, so he said.

19 See the Opium chapter for Innes’ smuggling

20 Opium was commonly repacked in treasure chests for Canton delivery as it usually went first to the silversmith to refine the drug for smoking. Thirteen Factories Street contained many silversmiths and each kept a furnace to assay silver, etc. About half the ball-weight of Company opium was unsmokable dross, poppy petals and leaves, which was removed by the money-changer by heating.

21 Keshen proposes to cut-off the tea supply to induce a more consensual attitude in the foreigners; they, on the other hand, are in process of cutting-off Chinese Customs revenue from foreign trade to induce a willingness to submit to British terms of trade.

22 It is worthwhile noting that as early as January 1839 the British mercantile community at Canton was invited to consider the British government’s liability for Elliot’s actions.

23 Editor Slade retracts his suggestion that the Company controlled the Journal in an edition in October 1839, noting the Company’s interest in the magazine had long ceased. This was in response to the Journal Editor’s enquiry as to who controlled the Canton Register.

24 The only square-rigged ship small enough for the many little Chinese harbours and bays along the coast is the brig – it becomes the vessel of choice for the coastal smugglers.

25 The relatively inconsequential things that Lindsay brings to the Viceroy’s attention suggest an intentional course of dealing. A part of the management of the Kwang Doong civil service is bribed leaving a handful of officers to effect the Emperor’s purpose. If those officials can be burdened with minutiae their anti-smuggling efforts might lose force.

26 This refers to the Company’s program to change the slave economy of Mauritius since the commencement of British sovereignty over that island in 1815, by providing replacement workers from India. Formerly Indian convicts were usually transported to Penang. Today the Mauritius has an Indian government.

27 The coastal trade was engrossed by Chinese junks. Matheson started coast trade and competed with the junks for the increased sale prices and reduced douceurs.

28 Sam shoo is an approximation of the Cantonese term for ‘thrice fired’ and refers to rice wine that has been distilled three times to remove the unpleasant head-ache inducing fractions. The alcohol content in sam shoo took westerners unawares and rendered many a fine beer-drinker hors de combat.

29 Omitted by the Editor from the above published version in Canton Register

30 Editor Slade invariably does – his assertion of ‘prescriptive rights’ is the same as ‘olo custom.’

31 The last public execution in England (the Irishman Barrett) was in 1868.

32 H H Lindsay ceases to act as Chairman of the General Chamber after this ferry boat affair. His derogation from agreed licensing terms made the matter contentious. Subsequent Chamber correspondence is signed by the American Wetmore.

33 G T Lay is the promoter of the Bonin Islands as his preferred British trade entrepot for Japan and China and is the likely author of this letter. The islands lay well to the East and their main attraction appears to be the absence of any other claimant to sovereignty.

34 All the regional governments are aware of the enervating effect of opium on the Chinese army. All the European colonial masters use local people in their armies and should likewise be alert to the danger posed.

35 This paragraph describes smuggling at the factories and is worth reflection.

36 ‘Full powers’ equates with Plenipotentiary powers in European diplomacy. Editor Slade translates ‘full powers’ as ‘irresponsible powers’ in his translation.

37 Editor Slade seems to be saying, although it is incomprehensible, that the recent Chamber request for details of members’ arms & ammunition was on behalf of the provincial government.

38 The proposal to surrender a little more than a thousand chests.

39 This fortuitous escape of the opium smugglers by the manipulation of an accommodating civil servant (Elliot) has consequences. British Asian trade is linked to the British economy by the credit mechanism. When neither bills nor cash return to Calcutta, Bombay and London, the East India Agents in London slip into crisis. Half the surrendered opium belongs to London capitalists. The eventual failure of Boggs Taylor & Co in 1841 infects the other London Agents of Asian trade, it spreads to Calcutta where the six greatest Agencies cease payments.

The India Company has concurrently, on the one hand expanded sugar exports three fold 1839 – 1842, whilst on the other withdrawn funds from the money market to fight in Afghanistan, Burma and finally China. Economic stimulus is negated by wars.

Commissioner Lin’s acts had financial effects that have evaded the attention of British historians. See the Asia Economy chapter for better details.

40 In this and subsequent editions Editor Slade reports the Chinese communications to foreigners, Elliot’s direction to Britons and observed events and rumours. He does not mention the formal British position as expounded by Elliot in his correspondence with Commissioner Lin but Chinese administration requires it be contained in the replies.

41 Editor Slade’s attempt at poetry hints that the matter of liability to pay compensation by the British government has already been conceded by the British executive. Its just the Legislature that has to be brought into line.

42 The market at Namoa never stopped during Commissioner Lin’s activities at Canton. Dulles in his ‘Old China Trade’ says this ‘naturally served to increase Chinese resentment against the British.’ The following article recites Elliot’s angry warning to Matheson and the other east coast traders. There was also a removal of opium stock to Manila, possibly Singapore as well, by the big holders.

43 There are infrequent allusions like this one to a ‘favourite foreign resort in the evenings.’ The large numbers of rowing and sailing pleasure craft moored off the factories, country walks, snipe shooting, visits to Hong merchants’ estates, the steak restaurant at Whampoa – these cumulatively suggest that living conditions in China were not as Spartan as British sources endeavour to suggest.

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