Imatges de pàgina
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A CAPITAL OFFENCE.

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countrymen, impressed the necessity of caution upon them, if the conviction of superiority left room no longer for any sense of insecurity. We may turn from the review of the local position to briefly consider the report of Taoukwang's Commissioners to their sovereign. They had been charged, in the most emphatic manner, to free the Empire from the presence of "the rebel barbarians," and their instructions left them no choice save to succeed in their mission, whether by force or by fraud mattered nothing to Taoukwang's conscience. The failure of their predecessors increased the incentive and the necessity for their faring better in the great enterprise entrusted to them; and, to do them justice, neither Yihshan nor any of his “rebel-quelling" colleagues, as they were termed, doubted for an instant their ability to bring the matter to a successful issue and to dispose of any number of the inferior races of the West. And now they had to tell a tale of failure and discomfiture. Within the space

of short weeks their hopes of success were dashed to the ground, and they could not deny that all their measures had been in vain, and that they were no better than Lin and Keshenonly weak creatures for an arrogant potentate to lean upon in an hour of blindness and adversity.

For a Chinese officer to fail in any mission entrusted to him is a capital offence. In the case of Yihshan the offence was the greater because the peril was the more grave, and because his very nearness to the throne rendered success more of a personal obligation. Yet his memorial to the Emperor, describing the course of events and the position of affairs, was an unqualified confession of failure, and, although it naturally sought to place in the most favourable light everything Yihshan had done, there remained the undoubted facts that he had failed in his commission, and that he had come to terms with the English authorities. The one distinct misrepresentation of fact contained in this document was so characteristic of Chinese diplomacy, which aimed at preserving the dignity of the Empire much more than at promoting the material interests of the Chinese people, as to call for notice. The six million dollars paid in compensation for the losses inflicted on English merchants by Commissioner Lin's VOL. II.

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destruction of the opium were represented as the private debts of the Hong merchants, and the contribution from the Imperial exchequer was stated to be a loan to these native traders, granted at their urgent petition, and on the promise of speedy repayment from “the consoo fund." Yihshan did not, of course, deny the greatness of his blundering, and prayed in the stereotyped form to be sent before the Board of Punishments for trial. The one fact that was revealed by the tone of this document was that with the barbarians there should be no permanent arrangement of amity, while Europeans could only see in it further proof of the untamed arrogance of the Chinese. The Canton convention was essentially a truce, not a treaty.

The operations before Canton had terminated about six weeks, and the trade had been resumed for half that period, when the arrival of Sir Henry Pottinger, * as sole Plenipotentiary to the Court of Pekin, and of Sir William Parker to assume the command of the fleet, brought new characters on the scene, and signified that the English Government was resolved to accept no prevarication on the part of the Chinese, and also to bring the question of their relations to a speedy and satisfactory issue. Yet when the new representatives of English policy and power came, they found what purported to be a friendly relationship in existence, and, so far as it was possible to identify the situation at Canton with the Emperor's policy, that most of the objects of their mission had been attained before their arrival. There were not wanting many reasons to justify a certain scepticism as to the durability of the arrangement, but still for the time being there was peace at the spot of most immediate importance to the foreign trade.

Sir Henry Pottinger's principal object was to conclude a treaty with the Imperial Government. A commercial agreement for the conduct of trade at Canton could not be

* Sir Henry Pottinger was an Anglo-Indian officer of long experience and distinguished service. He had travelled through Beloochistan with Christie, and he had been Political Resident with the Ameers of Scinde. He was afterwards Governor of Madras, and died in 1856. His younger brother was Eldred Pottinger, the heroic defender of Herat.

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SIR HENRY POTTINGER.

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considered an equivalent for the trouble and expense of fitting out and despatching large expeditions to the Far East. Moreover, there was no guarantee for its durability. Taoukwang had not taken the least step towards meeting foreign Governments on a common footing, and it was an open secret that he would repudiate all sympathy with, and responsibility for, Yihshan's personal engagement. The English plenipotentiary resolved, therefore, to follow

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the recent successes without delay, and by moving the scene of action one stage nearer the capital he hoped to effect his object, and to bring home to the Celestial Government the necessity of conceding the just demands of the English Crown and people. Before the end of August, therefore, the English expedition sailed from Hongkong, and on the 26th of that month Amoy, which had for a time been a port open to foreign trade, fell into the hands of the invaders. The defence made by the Chinese was described as

“ short but animated,” and with only trifling loss to the assailants a strong position, with 500 cannon mounted in its batteries, and defending vast supplies of munitions of war, was lost to the Emperor of China.

The Chinese authorities had neglected no means in their power of making Amoy capable of standing a siege ; and in their hearts they trusted for a time to a belief in its impregnability. The town of Amoy is situated on an island, the largest of a group lying at the entrance to the estuary of Lungkiang, and it has long been famous not only as a convenient port, but also as a place of opulence. Nearly 200,000 persons dwelt in the city at this time, and about half as many more inhabited the prosperous villages that covered the island. On the eastern side of the harbour is the large but flat island of Quemoy, with abundant rice-fields and a toiling population; and on the western is the elevated but barren islet of Kulangsu. On the chief island, and facing the sea, the Chinese had raised a rampart of 1100 yards in length, and this they had armed with ninety guns of different sizes. The flank of this fortification was defended by another battery of forty-two guns, while on the island of Kulangsu were many other guns in position which may be designated by

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