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THE BRITISH EMBASSY.
found most favour at Pekin. That sentiment was to acquire intensified force when the suspicions of General Sund Fo, as to the part we had taken in supporting the Goorkha “robbers," became known and appreciated in the Chinese capital.
But before the Chinese commander, who had overthrown the Goorkhas and given security to Tibet, returned to Pekin, the preliminary arrangements had been made and settled for the despatch of a British embassy to that city. At the last moment some delay had been caused by the death of Colonel Cathcart, the envoy who had been first selected for the post; but a suitable successor had soon been found in the person of Lord Macartney. As this was the first occasion on which a British ambassador received permission to proceed to the capital to have audience with the Emperor, some detailed notice * is called for, especially as we have already seen that it had been preceded many years before by embassies from the Czar of Russia, who in this matter anticipated the other potentates of Europe.
Every care was bestowed upon the proper equipment of this embassy. Chinese interpreters were sought for and procured after a difficult search. The presents for the Emperor were selected with the double object of gratifying his personal whims and inclinations, and of impressing him with a sense of the power and magnificence of England. The harshest or most cynical critic could not declare that in either one respect or the other there was anything deficient or open to animadversion. Even the names of the vessels that bore this mission to the shores of China were, whether by accident or design, singularly appropriate—the Lion and the Hindostan.
* The reader is referred for the fullest information on this subject to Sir George Staunton's "Authentic Account of an Embasy to the Emperor of China,” London, 1797 ; and reference may also be made to Mr. Anderson's narrative of the same mission, published in the year 1795 in London. The name of Sir George Staunton cannot be mentioned without making a passing tribute to the solid and enduring work which he performed towards the better understanding of China. He was certainly the first Englishman who regarded the subject from an intelligent and comprehensive point of view. His translations from the Chinese, particularly his “ Laws of the Manchus,” remain a permanent monument to his memory. VOL. I.
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
[To face page 722. H.E. THE EARL OF MACARTNEY, K.B., Baron Parkhurst in Surrey, and Baron Auchenleck in Kirkcudbrightshire ;
Embassador of the King of England to the Emperor of China.
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 seat 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 Yamên.
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