Imatges de pÓgina

of the truth might remove many absurd jealousies and suspicions which now reign in their minds with undisputed sway.* We may add, that the opinions expressed incidentally by Lord Grey upon matters of general policy involved in the discussion of colonial subjects, are clear, sound, and enlightened. Upon questions of trade, in particular, he shows everywhere not only a perfect mastery of the facts with which he deals, but also such a firm and consistent adherence to general principles as proves that he has thoroughly sifted and appropriated the original processes of argument upon which they are founded. We will only, in conclusion, express a hope that Lord Grey's work may serve as an example to his successors, and that we may receive from future Secretaries of State a similar compte rendu of their colonial administration.

Art. IV. - China during the War and since the Peace. By

Sir John FRANCIS DAVIS, Bart. 2 vols. 8vo. 1852. THE HREE circumstances combine at the present moment to

secure our earnest attention to the state and prospects of China and of its relations with western civilisation. The first to which we would allude is the remarkable effect which appears to be in process of the recent discoveries of gold in California and Australia, and the prominent part which this people seems destined to act, and indeed has already enacted, in the Pacific hemisphere.

The second specialty relating to China which attracts our attention at this particular juncture is the approach of the period for the revision of the commercial treaties with that nation. In nothing is procrastination more common, in nothing is it so fatal and consequently, as the subject is one of the deepest importance, in nothing should it be so studiously guarded against as in the management of political affairs. We therefore need make no apology for at once calling attention to what, in the pressing and stirring affairs of the present, had well nigh been forgotten, viz., that in 1855 the provisions of the French and American

* We may take this opportunity of mentioning the candid and intelligent appreciation of English affairs by which the Revue des deux Mondes has on many occasions distinguished itself; and particularly of calling attention to four articles by M. Léonce de Lavergne, on the Rural Economy of England, in the numbers for Jan. 15., March 1. and 15., and April 15. of this year. These articles not only discuss the social questions relating to English agriculture with great ability, but even on practical matters contain much information interesting to an English reader.

treaties with China will have to be reconsidered and revised by the contracting parties. To these stipulations our attention has been recalled by perusing the volumes of Sir John Davis, who observes, very justly, that. If, on the approach of the period '(1855-56), the Governments of England, France, and America could contrive to act in concert and alliance on the occasion (which, in fact, is the spirit in which the treaties were made), it would naturally add immensely to the weight and consistency of the negotiations, and be a rare opportunity for opening still wider the gates of China to the civilised world.' (Vol. ii. p. 87.) It is not to be objected that, as the stipulations are contained in the French and American treaties only, we have nothing to do with it; for it would be a very important matter even had we not been, as we are, actually embraced in this stipulation, so far as it is beneficial, by virtue of the general provision in the treaty of Nankin placing us upon the footing of the most favoured nations. Sir John Davis informs us that Keying has expressly recognised our interest in this revision, adding, with

the caution of a Chinese minister, “it is not said that after **twelve years the previous treaty ought no longer to be ob"" served, but that each party must appoint ministers to deter«« mine on the new regulations.”' Now, it must be admitted that for the reconsideration of a question affecting interests lying at so great a distance, two years is not too long a period.

The third of the circumstances alluded to above, and affecting our relations with China at the present moment, is its internal state.

For many months past our periodical intelligence from the East has had an unusual interest, in being the chronicle of the serious rebellion which has already spread itself over the southern provinces of China against the rule of that Tartar dynasty which has for two hundred years swayed the despotic or paternal seeptre of those vast realms. This rebellion has apparently had its origin in the more than ordinary success of certain robbers in the province of, who invoked in aid of their enterprise the support of the secret political societies of China, muttering the cabala of Chinese patriotism, as robbers in other countries and ages have invoked the name of liberty and the assistance of similar connexions. It has gradually spread in a very remarkable manner; and now appears to have identified itself with the cause of Chinese independence of Manchu domination, being supported by certain new-found legitimists e pseudo-legitimists of the ancient Ming dynasty. So widespread seems the reverence for legitimacy,' that in the extreme bounds of Asia we find it put forward as the Shibboleth


of the Chinese party,' a watchword which seems to threaten the stability of the most ancient, and in many respects the most remarkable empire on the roll of history.

About the year 1352, just 500 years before the date of the present assumption, it is remarkable that the rebellion of the • Chinese commenced against the former Tartar dynasty, that of • the Mongols, under which Marco Polo possessed so much credit • at Pekin. The Mongols having been expelled by the Chinese

in the middle of the fourteenth century, and the Chinese again .by the Mantchus, in the middle of the seventeenth century, it now remains to be seen if the Mantchus are to be


down in their turn by the Chinese in the middle of the nineteenth • century after a tenure of two hundred years. The drama • has not yet reached the fifth act,' concludes Sir John, but * were the catastrophe of a tragical cast, it would be strictly • in accordance with the principle of poetical justice. At the

commencement of the present year the emperor's troops had suffered severely in a contest with the rebels, and the inha

bitants of Canton had reason to apprehend that a continuance • of such warfare might place their tempting city in some * jeopardy.' (Vol. ii. pp. 216. 219.)

Since the publication of these quotations considerable progress has been made by the insurgents, and so much public interest is at present attached to their movements that we shall be excused for dwelling at some length upon the causes of the insurrection. In doing this we shall adopt very much the opinions of Sir John Davis, which are entitled to the greatest weight, and which, as they are enunciated in his last work, have been very much supported by the events which have since occurred.

We may gather sufficiently clearly from that work that whatever may be the final result of the internal troubles which now affect China, (and the catastrophe seems near at hand), they are in no small degree the consequences of that disgrace and defeat which the proud and boastful government of the country sustained in the war with Great Britain. Until then, the assumption of immense superiority had in some way or other been maintained; but the necessary humiliations imposed by the Treaty of Nanking were so great and so public, that there was no disguising them. The people had not received that protection which had been expected from the Emperor's forces; they had on the contrary seen those forces completely repulsed and dispersed in every single instance, and were no longer able to regard their rulers with the respect and awe which they had hitherto inspired.

The change was felt in many parts of the country. The


people began to oppose the payment of their former exactions, insurrections arose in various quarters, and bands of robbers, always a source of trouble, now began to defy the government. The public documents in the · Peking Gazette' clearly betrayed the weak and temporising course which it had become necessary to adopt. It was evident that there was a disposition to yield to necessity, and a fear of pushing matters to extremes.

By a long-established rule of the Government, the possession of firearms had always, previous to the war with England, been denied to the common people; and even the sale of iron had been at one time restricted, lest it might be converted to other uses than those of agriculture. But, during the war, there had been such a liberal distribution of arms to persons of all descriptions that they remained in the possession of many who were soon ready to make a bad use of them. The growth of piracy since the war may be in a great measure attributed to this cause, conjointly with the illicit opium traffic. The mere pos

. session of weapons led to their abuse; and those who were fishermen or smugglers to-day, were pirates to-morrow. The Government, on the other hand, had become weaker and less able to control, in proportion as the exertion of its powers was more required.

The evils on shore rivalled those at sea. During the war, there was little or no sympathy or co-operation between the Government and the inhabitants of the places visited by the British forces, except indeed at Canton; and even there the populace treated the matter rather as an ancient feud of their own against foreigners, and acted independently. When towns on the coast were captured, the rabble followed close upon our troops, and plundered the places which these had spared. The universal disorder and confusion thus generated left their traces and effects after the conclusion of the peace, and have never been completely remedied. Stimulus and encouragement was especially given to the secret societies, which under the name of the “Triad,' the Water Lily,' and other designations, had been long in existence, with the professed object of restoring the Ming or Chinese dynasty, by the expulsion of the Tartars.

To the growing evils by which he was surrounded, the late Emperor, older in constitution than in years, was little able to oppose any effectual remedies. His difficulties had been greatly increased by the indemnity of 21,000,000 dollars to be paid us for the war which had already exhausted his resources. The revenue, which had been in some cases anticipated, could not again be raised, and thus there arose a financial crisis of the worst description. Trade had of course suffered during the


Relations of England with China.


war, especially that of the beleaguered coast, and the usual produce of the customs was greatly impaired. Natural evils combined with the political to enhance the difficulties of the Government. An unusually wet year, and the inundations of the Yangtszekiang and Yellow River devastated several provinces. The principal source of Chinese revenue is the land-tax, and with all his absolute power the Emperor cannot easily depart from the traditions of the country, or change those rules of taxation which time has sanctioned.

To provide for his immediate necessities, the Emperor was advised to have recourse to a system of patriotic aids on the part of wealthy persons, who in return for subscribing certain sums were to receive a nominal rank, and enjoy particular privileges. This system of barter succeeded in some measure, and at Canton a host of such candidates for honours subscribed enough to rebuild the damaged defences. Similar appeals succeeded in other quarters, but such a source was easily exhausted; for when these distinctions and privileges increased in number they diminished at the same time in value, and future offers were less readily welcomed. Then came the infinitely worse proposition, to dispose of civil offices for money, an infraction of the fundamental principle of China, on which has been based so much of her stability and comparative good government. By giving thus an unfair and unconstitutional advantage to wealth over personal merit, a blow was aimed at the most influential class in the country, the learned; and the manifest tendency was to alienate them from the Tartar rule.

When it was known that civil offices might be eventually obtained by the contribution of certain fixed sums, there was at first no dearth of candidates. As the possession of office might be turned to pecuniary advantage it was a sort of investment, and the subscribers to such a lottery were sufficiently numerous. The vacancies were, however, in a small proportion to the aspirants, and these soon found they had the chance of waiting with no very early prospect of seeing their expectations realised. The purchasers became discontented at finding they had spent their money to little purpose; and to meet their clamours a course of rigid severity was adopted towards the actual occupants of office, who, on the commission of the slightest error, either real or imputed, were ousted, and some monied candidate substituted.

If any thing had been wanting to rouse the literary and official class against the government it was this. They had always and justly enjoyed, as an inherent constitutional right, the undisputed privilege of filling honourable magisterial offices, and

« AnteriorContinua »