網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

of moral evidence. Yet Major Rennel has shown that there are many difficulties in Xenophon's narrative, and several inaccuracies. Is the Anabasis, therefore, to be rejected as a fable, or should its reputation continue to flourish unimpaired? There is no one, we believe, who will refuse to admit, that with all the difficulties that darken some parts of it, and the inaccuracies that are to be found in others, it is still a most authentic record. Yet there exists a class of writers, who affect to disprove the credibility of the sacred narrative by the obscurities and apparent inaccuracies, which, with a mischievous diligence, they have endeavoured to detect in it. The obscurities on which they dwell only prove our ignorance; and the seeming inaccuracies are such merely on account of our imperfect acquaintance with the manners, the geography, and the events of a remote age. But even were the case otherwise, even were the alleged inaccuracies real, by what evasion of scepticism do they give unhesitating credence to Xenophon, and Thucydides, and Tacitus, and yet question the truth of the Scriptural records. The principle of their infidelity goes directly to subvert the credit of all profane history: but man is listened to with a candour which is not vouchsafed to the voice of Heaven.

ART. VII.-EMBASSY TO CHINA.

1. Journal of the Proceedings of the late Embassy to China; comprising a correct Narrative of the public Transactions of the Embassy, of the Voyage to and from China, of the Journey from the Mouth of the Pei-ho to the Return to Canton; interspersed with Observations on the Face of the Country, the Polity, Moral Character, and Manners of the Chinese Nation. The whole illustrated with Maps and Drawings. By Henry Ellis, Third Commissioner of the Embassy. 4to. pp. 526. Murray. London, 1817.

2. Narrative of a Voyage in his Majesty's late Ship Alceste to the Yellow Sea, along the Coast of Corea, and through its numerous hitherto undiscovered Islands, to the Island of Lewchew; with an Account of her Shipwreck in the Straits of Gaspar. By John M'Leod, Surgeon of the Alceste. 8vo. pp. 288. Murray. London, 1817.

Most of our readers are aware that the embassy of which we are now to give some account, was suggested to the East India Company, and ultimately to his Majesty's ministers, by a misunderstanding which arose in the year 1814, between the supercargoes at Canton and the body of merchants appointed by the Chinese

government to conduct the limited trade which they deign to carry on with foreign nations: and, in order to place the immediate objects of the mission in a clearer point of view, we shall begin by recapitulating, from the several publications which have fallen into our hands, a few facts with respect to the grounds of our quarrel with the local authorities now mentioned, as well as with respect to the general and commercial relations which subsisted between the two countries, at the time Lord Amherst arrived in the Eastern Sea.

It can scarcely then be necessary to mention that the trade, and the small degree of intercourse arising from it, which is kept up between the Chinese and the foreign merchant at Canton, are altogether a matter of mere connivance or sufferance on the part of the former; that there is no commercial treaty to define the limits and adjust the terms of their transactions with the various strangers who visit their shores; and that even the East India Company, the most powerful mercantile association in the world, have no privileges to encourage, and no rights to protect them, more than the lowest adventurer from Portugal or America. On the contrary, with the characteristic pride of semi-barbarians, the government of China professes to take no notice of such an insignificant affair as foreign commerce; and the arrangements connected with it, accordingly, are never understood to engage the Imperial attention, or to be discussed in the councils of the lofty mandarins. To secure the public peace, indeed, as well as the payment of duties on goods exported and imported, and to have a class of men who might be responsible for all frauds, brawls, or actual violence, chargeable upon foreigners, the court of Pekin, about the middle of last century, condescended to create a kind of corporate society called the Cong-hang, or Hong; consisting of ten or twelve wealthy merchants, who, upon the conditions just stated, namely, the payment of all dues, and the maintenance of public order, were to enjoy the exclusive privilege of trading with Europeans. It is with this Hong, or body of security-merchants, accordingly, that all the commercial business is transacted; and, as the terms of buying and selling, the rate of shore-dues, and custom-house imposts, depend almost entirely upon their caprice, or their views of temporary interest, the supercargoes, who represent the East India Company, have an extremely difficult part to act; as they must study, at the same moment, to conciliate the prejudices and to resist the impositions of these privileged persons. In such circumstances, occasional ruptures and frequent altercation are altogether unavoidable; and, in many instances, the only choice left with the supercargoes on the spot, and their employers at home, has been either to abandon the trade at once, or to flatter, frighten,

and bribe the gentlemen of the Hong into reasonable terms. Foreign commerce, it will be readily believed, is a matter of greater consequence to the Celestial Empire, for this is the epithet which the Chinese usually apply to their country, and more particularly to the people of Canton, than they are willing to allow; and we find, accordingly, that whenever the English threaten to relinquish all intercourse with them, and prepare to abandon their factory, the local functionaries usually withdraw from their high ground, and accede, for the time, to almost any proposal which may be made, as the basis of a renewed traffic and a good understanding.

Things had proceeded in this disagreeable, uncertain manner, a considerable number of years, amidst many complaints, remonstrances, and explanations; when, in 1814, the hostility of the Canton government was excited to a high pitch, by the violation of neutrality, on the part of the British, in the case of an American vessel, which was captured by his Majesty's ship Doris, within the undisputed limits of the Chinese dominions. Mr. Ellis is decidedly of opinion that the capture of the American was altogether unwarrantable; but adds, at the same time, that other seizures of the ships of that nation, justified by the acknowledged principles of maritime law in Europe, were also complained of by the Canton government; who called upon the chief and the select committee of supercargoes to redress the injury by an immediate dispatch of all his Majesty's ships to England; following up this demand with a refusal to supply them with provisions, and with an evident demonstration to attempt their expulsion by main force. In vain did the committee represent that they had no power over his Majesty's ships; and that therefore they could not, and ought not, to be held responsible for the conduct of their commanders. The Viceroy of Canton, as might have been expected, continues Mr. Ellis, refused to admit the separation of authority; naturally preferring, as the responsible persons for all acts committed by British subjects, a body of merchants resident on the spot, to superior authorities placed at such a distance that an appeal to them seemed almost nugatory. He endeavoured, therefore, to enforce compliance with his requisition, as to the removal of the men of war, by a series of acts all more or less embarrassing to the supercargoes; prohibiting Chinese of all descriptions from serving in the English factory; returning the addresses of the committee unopened; and imprisoning, with every mark of ignominy, a native interpreter who had been employed to carry the portrait of the Prince Regent to the minister at Pekin. The inflexible determination manifested by the Viceroy, in the acts now enumerated, compelled the supercargoes to have recourse to the decisive measure of putting a stop to the

trade; a measure, as our author justly remarks, pregnant with injury to both parties, with an immediate loss of revenue to the local government, and with the greatest commercial and financial embarrassment to the East India Company, should it fail of success. The very desperation of the measure required the utmost firmness in carrying it into effect; and in this the supercargoes were not wanting. A regular negotiation upon the points at issue was allowed by the Viceroy. Mandarins of rank were appointed to meet Sir George Staunton (deputed from the select committee for that purpose) on a footing of equality and the result was the removal and satisfactory explanation of the subjects of complaint. In the course of these discussions, however, the supercargoes found much reason to be dissatisfied with the conduct of the Hong merchants, the chief of whom appeared to be deeply involved in the security of the American ships; and various intrigues were brought to light, the object of which was to subject the whole trade with England to the complete controul of the Chinese. Suspicions, too, on both sides, were so far from being set at rest, that the authorities at Canton, in corresponding with the government at Pekin, express uneasiness at the refractory conduct of the British, and suggest the expediency of publishing edicts to prevent a more intimate intercourse with Christians in any part of the empire; whilst the supercargoes, on the other hand, felt so little secure of continuing unmolested in the conduct of their commercial affairs, as to state to the directors, in the beginning of the following year, their decided conviction, "that had they succeeded in avoiding the disputes of 1814, the strong measures they were then obliged to adopt must have been recurred to in a year or two more; and it was their clear opinion, repeatedly expressed in their minutes and letters, that it had become highly expedient to send a mission to the Emperor, either from Bengal or England, in order to obtain due protection and security for the British trade."

Conceiving, as Mr. Ellis observes, that the truth was concealed from the Emperor, the directors naturally concluded that a redress of grievances might be obtained by an immediate application to his supreme authority; and much stress was laid by them on the indisputable fact that the trade with the company is of the greatest importance, not only to the province of Canton, but to the imperial revenues at large. "Although the solicitation of additional privileges was generally disclaimed by the directors, their views on this occasion were extended to two objects of new and important concession. First, the employment of such Chinese merchants as the supercargoes might think fit; and, secondly, the establishment of a direct intercourse with Pekin, either by means of a resident minister, or by written addresses to some

tribunal; a confirmation of the several points contended for and gained by the supercargoes in their recent negotiation with the Viceroy, embraced all the other expectations of the directors from the proposed embassy. They also suggested, that this opportunity might be taken to make suitable explanations respecting the seizure of American vessels by his Majesty's ship Doris."

After repeated conferences between Ministers and the gentlemen of Leadenhall-street, as to the composition of the embassy, it was finally agreed that, "as impression was the great instrument by which the objects of the embassy were to be obtained," Lord Amherst should be appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary by the Prince Regent; and that Mr. Elphinstone and Sir George Staunton, members of the factory at Canton, should, one or both of them, join his lordship as commissioners, with the view of guiding his determinations by their local knowledge and intimate acquaintance with the language of the country. "And I," says Mr. Ellis, "was named secretary of embassy, and furnished with dormant credentials as minister plenipotentiary, to be used only in the event of the death or absence of the ambassador. My name was also introduced into the instrument of full powers, and it was understood that in case of the absence of Mr. Elphinstone or Sir George Staunton, I was to succeed to the vacancy in the commission." To the persons

now mentioned, we may add that the Honourable Jeffery Amherst, son of the ambassador, was appointed to act as page; Mr. Hayne, as private secretary; Mr. Abel, as surgeon and naturalist; the Rev. John Griffiths, as chaplain; Mr. Havel, as artist; and Dr. Lynn, with Mr. Maurige, Mr. Poole, and some others, were named to different other departments. It is hardly necessary to specify that Lord Amherst had already filled the high situation of ambassador at the court of Sicily; and that Mr. Ellis had been employed in a successful negotiation with the King of Persia.

Matters being thus arranged, the embassy sailed from Spithead, on the 8th of February, 1816; and, diverging a little from their direct course, reached Rio Janeiro on the 21st of March. Here Mr. Ellis betakes himself to description. The mountains in South America are very lofty, and so is his style in this particular part; and as he meets with very little in China to rouse his imagination to the poetical pitch, we shall, once for all, give a specimen of his fine writing.

"The morning found us nearly in an amphitheatre of mountains, at at the distance of seven miles. An opening between two extremes of land marked the entrance of the harbour; on the right is the fort of Santa Cruz, on the left that of Saint Lucie. The ranges presented in most places conical summits, and although one has especially obtained

« 上一頁繼續 »