Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

Some one must have been concealed within this chamber-perchance the young Man, Charles Stuart himself."

“Ha! say you so, captain?" Delves exclaimed. “That were a prize, indeed !"

“Nay, 'tis mere conjecture,” Stelfax rejoined, somewhat hastily. “ Yet 'tis certain some one has been hidden here. Away with thee down-stairs, and leave me to question this Episcopalian preacher.” And as Delves departed, the Roundhead captain marched

up

to Mr. Beard, and shaking him as roughly as the sergeant had done, fiercely demanded who had been concealed in the room.

“I will answer no questions,” Mr. Beard replied, meekly but firmly; "so you may spare yourself the trouble of interrogating me.

"I will find a way of making thee speak, thou perverse and purblind zealot,” Stelfax roared. " Think not I will show thee mercy because of thy comely daughter. Thou shalt undergo the torture. My men shall put jagged rings upon thy thumbs that shall pierce deeply into the flesh. Thy legs shall be thrust into an iron boot that shall crush bone and marrow, and make thee lame for life.”

“ All this you may do, and more, as your savage nature may suggest,” the clergyman said, firmly; "yet shall you not force me speak.”

“We shall see presently,” Stelfax cried. “I ask thee again, who has been concealed in this room?—the young Man, Charles Stuart, eh?”

Mr. Beard made no reply.

“Put on the thumbscrew, Tola,” Stelfax said. “I will waste no more time with him."

“Hold, captain,” Micklegift interposed. “I will not permit this worthy man to be tortured.”

“ Thou wilt not permit it! ho! ho!” Stelfax exclaimed, in a jeering tone. “In what way wilt thou prevent it? Withdraw, if thou carest not to see my order executed.”

“No, I will not withdraw. I protest against thy cruel order," Micklegift cried, resolutely. “I lift up my voice against it, and if thou

harmest this good man, thou and thy men will repent it.” “I have heard enough,” cried Stelfax, fiercely. “ Thrust him from the room, and obey my order.”

I will resist them-yea, I will resist them with force,” said Micklegift.

The troopers hesitated, not liking to lay hands upon the Independent minister.

At this moment the door opened, and Colonel Maunsel and Dulcia entered the room. The old Cavalier looked pale as death, and greatly agitated. He cast an anxious look around, as if apprehensive that his son's retreat had been discovered. Dulcia was equally alarmed.

“My father! my father!" she shrieked, flying towards the poor clergyman.

136

LORD ELGIN'S MISSION.*

Although the treaty of 1858 has been as little regarded and as faithlessly held as all previous treaties made with the Chinese, still, considering that European powers are at last determined to teach the government of that great and populous nation the necessity of abiding by political and international contracts, the mission of Lord Elgin may be justly looked upon as having been not only the most eventful, but also the most important of any that have preceded it. Sir George Staunton's, Lord Macartney's, and Lord Amherst's embassies were beneath the dignity of a great nation.

The treaty of Sir Henry Pottinger, in 1842, was replete with grave errors. It left the shipping and commercial relations of the British colony of Hong-Kong in a very unsatisfactory state. It contained no clause-s0 necessary with the Chinese_declaring the British text to be the true reading. It removed our influence from the capital to Canton, the remotest and most unruly part of the empire. And it made no provision for personal access to the high commissioner, still less for communication with the government. The treaty, in fact, was signed, as most others have been, not with the purpose of honestly giving effect to its conditions, but to get rid of the barbarian pressure, and to bide the time when its obligations could be got rid of altogether. Happily, circumstances were altered. Instead of having to deal with a home government, the Chinese authorities were thrown into immediate contact with the British colonial authorities, and a collision soon took place. In 1847, Sir John Davis, impatient at Keying's procrastination and subterfuges, determined to attack Canton, but a respite was sued for and granted. Sir George Bonham and Seu, who succeeded, carried on the same temporising and unsatisfactory policy. In Sir John Bowring's time the progress of the rebellion, obliged the then chief commissioner, Yeh, to solicit the assistance of the British fleet, which was granted. This amicable intervention was, however, as usual, represented to the people as an act of vassalage, and the assistance rendered as having been in obedience to orders issued by imperial authority!

Wearied with so many evasions, difficulties, and delays, the ministers of the treaty powers, in 1854, determined to approach the capital, in order to represent to the court the unsatisfactory state of foreign relations with the imperial commissioner at Canton. The mission was received at the Taku forts, but the mendacity and treachery of the Chinese commissioners effectually prevented anything being done. Yeh, in the mean time, turned the execution-ground at Canton into a huge lake of blood ; hundreds of rebels were beheaded daily.

The affair of the Arrow, and the determination of Sir John Bowring, brought about the inevitable crisis.

Though in this particular instance (says the author of the work now before us) “the alleged insult” itself claims but a brief notice, and that merely as a

* Narrative of the Earl of Elgin's Mission to China and Japan in the Years 1857, '58, '59. By Laurence Oliphant, Private Secretary to Lord Elgin. With Illustrations. Two Vols. William Blackwood and Sons.

matter of history, the steps taken by our diplomatic and naval authorities on the spot to redress it, are worthy of a fuller consideration, because there can be little doubt that it was in consequence of the results which these entailedcoupled with other causes which will be hereafter mentioned—that Lord Elgin was compelled to adopt a line of policy not altogether in accordance with his original instructions, as defined in the House of Commons by Lord Palmerston, during the session of 1857. That this may be the more clearly apprehended, and a correct estimate formed of the embarrassing nature of the difficulties with which the high-commissioner (Lord Elgin) found himself surrounded at the outset, it will be necessary to narrate briefly the course of events which occurred in the Canton river previous to his arrival. Their consideration will enable us at once to perceive how humiliating was the attitude we were occupying in the eyes of the Chinese, and more especially of the Cantonese, how grave the injury which our national prestige was suffering in consequence, and how inconvenient were the complications arising out of the anomalous position in which Great Britain found herself placed with reference to other nations.

The difficulties here alluded to were contained mainly in the fact that in consequence of the ridiculously inadequate manner in which warlike operations were at the onset carried on against the Cantonese, not only was our colony at Hong-Kong injured, our prestige impaired, our relations with neutral powers embarrassed, and our commerce at all the other ports of the empire placed in jeopardy, but the difficulties in the way of any negotiations which might be attempted directly with the court of Pekin were materially enhanced.

These difficulties were to a certain extent relieved at the time that Lord Elgin's embassy was despatched to China, by the nearly simultaneous departure of an expeditionary force under General Ashburnham, but all advantages to be derived from the direction of public interest to Chinese affairs, and the employment of an adequate naval and military force in its waters, were put an end to by the progress of the mutiny in India. Lord Elgin was so crippled by this event, that, after a short stay at Macao and a passing glance at the state of things in QuanTung, he retraced his steps back to Calcutta. The force from China removed thence by the high-commissioner to India, contributed materially to stem the current of rebellion.

The first landing was effected on the 27th of December, the French contriving, in their national determination never to be outdone, to get on shore first. On this occasion all those who offered no opposition were treated as friends, a policy which led to Captain Hackett's head being cut off in a “friendly” village, and to many others being shot from behind. The capture of Lin's Fort was within the programme for the first day's operations, and here French impetuosity again took the lead. “When the banner of the last Chinaman,” Mr. Oliphant says, “ had disappeared, the French rushed in ; and it must be admitted that there was no reason why we should not have done the same.”

The next day the town itself was taken by assault, and, according to Mr. Oliphant's version of the matter, there was not much ground for the international discussion which followed as to who was first.

In the entire British force, consisting of nearly five thousand men, the result of the two days' operations was eight killed and seventy-one wounded, including among the former one killed by our own shot, and one waylaid and murdered by villagers. The French, out of a force of nine hundred, lost only two men killed and thirty wounded.

The position of the Europeans in Canton after the capture of the city was ridiculous in the extreme. The lower class were looting the houses of the middle and better classes, and only two persons—Mr. Wade and Mr. Parkes—could converse in Chinese, so, Yeh having been made prisoner by Captain Key, Pihkwei was appointed governor, with the Tartar general to assist him, under the commander-in-chief, who was to be the supreme authority.

The raising of the blockade having been announced, and the necessary arrangements for reopening trade having been made, the mission next took its departure for Shanghai, whither Lord Elgin proposed to proceed in the first instance, to invite a properly accredited minister to meet him there, for the settlement of all questions in dispute between the two countries, and this failing, his intention was to push on northwards without delay, for the purpose of approaching Pekin as nearly as was practicable with gun-boats of the lightest draught.

“A visit of a few hours to Amoy on the way sufficed,” Mr. Oliphant says, to reconcile them to a speedy departure.” This is the more remarkable, as the streets, albeit narrower and more filthy than those of Canton," were crowded with a gaily-dressed population, engaged in feasting and visiting at one another's houses, and celebrating the new year. At daylight on the morning of the 20th of February they found themselves in the muddy waters of the Yang-tse-Kiang, and they reached Woosung, on the river of the same name on which Shanghai is situated, the same afternoon. As the Taoutai, or intendant of Shanghai, was absent, it was resolved to deliver the letters to Chaou, the governor of Kiangsu, who resides at Soo-chow, in person. The expedition was composed of seventeen boats, and when at anchor the first night at a pagoda, a few miles above Shanghai, they observed a mandarin boat moor in significant proximity to them. They subsequently discovered that every movement they made had been minutely recorded by a petty mandarin sent to watch them.

As they proceeded up the river, they found the population not to be so much collected into large villages as in the south, but to be scattered over the country in farms and hamlets, imparting to the otherwise uninteresting scenery that air of domestic comfort and civilisation which is more particularly the characteristic of Belgium and the Low Countries. Everywhere the population were industriously engaged in agricultural pursuits ; not an inch of ground seemed uncultivated, not a resource neglected for increasing the fertility of the soil. The whole country was intersected with water communication, most of the channels being a combination of the natural and artificial, and the sails of junks were visible above the level of the country, through which they seemed impelled by some mysterious and hidden influence. At this time of the year a thick hoar-frost covered the fields in early morning, and a good coal-fire was enjoyed at night.

On the morning of the 26th the walls and pagodas of Soo-chow were visible. The tapering masts were lowered shortly afterwards to pass under a very handsome stone bridge, which spanned the Imperial Grand Canal in a single arch, and hence they reached the south-east angle of the city wall. The banks of the canal had been broken down for now

five years, and the “ vast supplies of grain," upon which Captain Sherard Osborn lays so much stress, had to be sent to the north in sea-goi ng junks. The enormous imperial grain junks formerly employed looked like so many stranded arks going to decay. In some instances their decks were grass-grown.

Soo-chow is built in the shape of a perfect square, each side four miles in length, and washed on all sides by canals, with lanes of water in the interior, which, like those of Venice, opened in divers directions. Soochow is celebrated throughout China for the beauty of its women, and Mr. Oliphant says, that those he saw did not belie its reputation. In other towns they are shy of barbarians, but there “they love both to see and be seen, and with good reason.” The mission was received by the governor at his yamum, in the centre of the city, and the letters from Lord Elgin to Yu, the prime minister, were confided to his care. The mandarin is governor of a province containing thirty-eight millions of inhabitants, with power of life and death, and yet he is only the subordinate of the governor-general of the Two Kiangs, who, in his turn, is a responsible officer.

Of Shanghai itself, Mr. Oliphant says, that of all the spots upon the coast of the Celestial Empire at which Europeans have established themselves, it is certainly the pleasantest, as a residence. With a society almost as numerous as Hong-Kong, there is much agreeable social intercourse. “ There is, moreover

, an air of substantial prosperity about Shanghai which occasionally expands into magnificence, and displays itself in palatial residences and an expensive style of living.” The handsome houses which line the shore for a distance of two miles also give it an imposing appearance as approached from the sea. As far as the Chinese part of the town is concerned, all of its class are so like each other as to be almost undistinguishable. Shanghai, it is to be observed, is the principal port for the export of the annual supply of rice to the north. Thousands of junks bound for the Peiho leave the river in successive fleets during the spring months. Mr. Oliphant himself admits that one of the most important means that could be brought to bear upon the capital would be intercepting this supply, which could be done with a few gun-boats in the Gulf of Pecheli.

Of Ningpo, the literary city of China, to which Mr. Oliphant next proceeded, he says, that it decidedly ranks first among those at present open to Europeans. It is situated at the confluence of two rivers, contains a population of about a quarter of a million, and is five miles in circumference. A bridge of boats, two hundred yards long, connects it with the principal suburb. The book shops are worthy of its high literary reputation, and commemorative arches of granite record the names of great scholars and philosophers. Ningpo is also noted for the excellence of its wood carving and inlaying, and the embroidery in silk and satin is often beautiful.

There is no doubt, from its situation at the mouth of the Yang-tseKiang, whence all the grain to the north takes its departure, whence the Imperial Grand Canal can be blockaded, and where the greatest opening to commerce that exists in all China presents itself, that Chusan ought to be the first place reoccupied by the British in the case of renewed hostili

« AnteriorContinua »