« AnteriorContinua »
The embassy sailed from Portsmouth in September, 1792— the very month when the fate of the Goorkhas was being decided at Nayakot—but it did not reach the Peiho until the month of August in the following year.
The Earl of Macartney was the great-grandson of George Macartney, of Auchenleck, in Kirkcudbrightshire, who settled in Belfast in 1649, and who, according to Benn's "History of Belfast," was the principal person concerned in laying the foundation of the future greatness of that city. According to Playfair, the family of Macartney is of great antiquity, having received from Bruce a grant of lands in Galloway still called by the name of Macartney, or Marcartney, in return for their services in the wars which, after many defeats, led to his accession to the crown of Scotland. About the beginning of the sixteenth century the family divided into three branches—Auchenleck, Leathes, and Blackets. From the first were descended the two members of the family whose names are so intimately connected with China—Earl Macartney, the first ambassador from England to China, and Sir Halliday Macartney, the well-known councillor to the Chinese Legation in London, of whom much more will be heard in the second volume ; whilst from the Blacket branch was descended the General Macartney who acted as second to Lord Mohun in the duel, fatal to both parties, which took place between him and the Duke of Hamilton in Hyde Park in 1712. From the Blacket branch are also descended Sir John Macartney, of Lisk, the present baronet, and Mr. Ellison Macartney, M.P., secretary to the Admiralty. In former times several of the Macartneys would seem to have been lawyers, and to have acted as such to the monasteries. From Sweetheart Abbey, Dulce Cor, the Leathes branch, extinct since 1780, received a grant of the property of Leathes in 1549, whilst that from which Lord Macartney and Sir Halliday Macartney are descended held for many generations the small estate of Auchenleck in fee from the Abbey of Dundrennan.
In the course of his official career Earl Macartney held many important appointments. He was ambassador from England to Catherine II. of Russia, with whom he was a persona gratissima, especially from the time when, in a courtly
Baron Parkhurst in surrey, and Baron Auchenleck in Kirkcudbrightshire:
LORD MACARTNEY. 733
speech addressed to the great Empress, he said that her extraordinary accomplishments and heroic virtues made her the delight of that half of the globe over which she reigned, and rendered her the admiration of the other. His next diplomatic appointment was that of British ambassador to China in 1792, a difficult post, in which he conducted himself with great dignity and address. He declined to perform the degrading ceremony of the Kowtow, which until then, and for long afterwards, had been exacted as the price of audience of the Emperor from all European ambassadors to the Court of Peking, and he did this without giving offence to Keen Lung, the great Emperor who then occupied the throne. But he was less successful with the Emperor's ministers, for the Board of Rites, on hearing that Lord Macartney had been admitted to audience without performing the abject ceremony of the three genuflections and the nine prostrations, exclaimed that in dispensing with the ceremony His Majesty had sullied the lustre of his long and glorious reign, at the same time declaring that nought but humiliation was to be expected in the future at the hands of the proud and unbending nation to which the ambassador belonged. The unyielding but yet courteous conduct of the ambassador would seem to have raised him in the estimation of the Emperor, for in a banquet which he gave to the ambassador, and at which he himself was present, though not at the same table, His Majesty rose from his scat and with his own hand poured out a glass of wine for Lord Macartney. This is somewhat different from the scant courtesy which once a year the Emperor of China shows to the foreign representatives at Peking, when, like so many schoolboys in a class, ranged in a row, they are allowed to make their salutations and retire to some other apartment in the palace to be entertained by the members of the Tsungli Yamen.
Though the embassy was considered to have been a failure as regards the objects which the British Government had in view in sending it, it was otherwise a great success; and it would be difficult to say how different might have been the state of China to-day, had Lord Amherst, our next ambassador to China, been equally successful, and the then reigning Emperor been a man as liberal in his views and as independent of his surroundings as Keen Lung. The friendly relations between the two courts established by Lord Macartney might have gone on increasing, the wars with England in the time of Taokwang and Hienfung might never have come to pass, and China might have been opened to foreign intercourse a hundred years sooner. Though this is not the place to pass in review the different high appointments held by Lord Macartney at home and in the colonies, yet I cannot close this short resumi of his career without alluding to his disinterestedness and high principle. When Governor of Madras he set an example of honesty and uncorruptibility—not common in India at the time when the custom was for officials to shake the pagoda tree and get rich. The well-disguised bribes which it was the custom of the native princes to present to Europeans of position, and which they always retained for their personal benefit, were by Lord Macartney placed in the public treasury to be sold for the public advantage. His conduct in this respect excited the surprise of Hyder Ali, and extorted from him the exclamation, so honourable to Lord Macartney, " I cannot understand this new governor; money seems to have no attractions for him."
The reception that awaited it afforded every reason for gratification, and much cause to hope that the ends for which the embassy had been despatched would be successfully attained. After Lord Macartney left the man-of war, he and his party were conveyed with all attention and ceremony up the Peiho to the capital. Visits of ceremony were paid and returned with the Viceroy of Pechihli, and some of the other principal mandarins. At Tientsin they were even accorded the unusual honour of a military salute. A missionary wrote from Pekin to Lord Macartney to say that the Emperor had shown "marks of great satisfaction" at the news of his approach, and the instructions sent by Keen Lung to facilitate the movements of the British mission were too clear and emphatic to be disregarded. The embassy was detained some time in Pekin, and for a moment it seemed as if a period of vexatious delay would herald the discomfiture of