Imágenes de páginas

of a large ship of war lying at anchor in the middle of an extensive gulf, in less than four fathoms water, and eleven miles from shore, at a time too when the change of the monsoon was momentarily expected, and when those horrible hurricanes called typhoons prevail, and in one of which, in fact, the Alceste was caught in her return to the southward :-deceitful in all its proceedings; its conduct at variance with all its moral and political maxims; it could only impute bad motives to measures of necessary precaution, though the same measures had also been adopted by Sir Erasmus Gower on the former occasion.

The danger, in fact, was stated to the legate and the two man. darins; and so well satisfied were they with the reasons assigned for not remaining in that open anchorage, that they furnished Captain Maxwell with a letter, ordering the provincial authorities, wherever he might touch, to supply the wants of the ships. If they neglected to inform his imperial majesty of this circumstance, they alone were to blame. However they did not trouble the coast of China; they stood across the gulf of Leatong, saw the great wall, winding up one side of steep mountains and descending the other down into the very gulf; and instead of meeting with the eastern coast of Corea, where it appears on our charts, they fell in with an archipelago of a thousand islands, among which were the most commodious and magnificent harbours; the real coast of the Co rean peninsula being at least 120 miles farı her to the eastward. From hence they proceeded to the Leiou-Kieou islands, where they met with a harbour equal to that of Port Mahon, and with the most friendly reception from the poor but kind-hearted people of those islands. Finally, from hence they stood across direct for Canton.

In the mean time the embassy proceeded to Pekin; and on their arrival at Tien-Sing, so it is stated in the Gazette before us, a grand entertainment was given to Lord Ambersi, agreeably with the established ceremonies of the empire; for which, however, his lordship is said not to have been sufficiently thankful. Another edict, bearing date the 28th of August, announces the arrival of the ambassador at Pekin, bearing a letter and tribute from the King of England ; and another edict, in the next day's Gazelle, proclaims the conclusion of the mission, orders it to quit Pekin the same day, points out its route through the provinces to Canton, commands the great officers of the provinces and the criminal judges to attend the am bassador, together with a large military escort; and it is difficult to say whether suspicion, weakness, or pusillanimity most preponderates in the precautions dictated in these absurd orders; or whether petulance or timidity is most apparent in them. 1:

states that the letter and presents have not been received, because the ambassador could not present them; and the reason for not presenting them is thus announced:

• This was the day which his imperial majesty bad appointed to * receive Lord Amherst, the ambassador from the King of England; but when he came to the door of the interior palace, he was suddenly taken so ill that he could neither walk nor move. The second ambassador' (Sir G. Staunton) was also affected in the same manner; they could not therefore have the happiness of receiving the gracious favour and the presents of the celestial emperor.'

This sickness of the ambassador is a stale trick of the Chinese; the explanation of which, we conjecture to be this : On finding that Lord Amherst was inflexible, they endeavoured to ensnare, him by an apparent relaxation of the demand, when on arriving at the hall of audience he detected their stratagem, and resisted the attempt to enforce the ceremony, which they would have made no scruple lo do. The autocrat of two hundred millions of people could not at once tell bis slaves that a foreign ambassador would not, he therefore qualified the refusal with suggesting that he could not, through sickness, see his heavenly face.'

The ambassador did not, however, leave Pekin on the 29th August, in conformity with the imperial mandate: it was generally believed in Canton that he did not set out on the journey till the 7th September ; what happened in the intermediate time does not appear, but on the 6th September another edict was published, It begins by noticing the grand banquet given at Tien-Sing; the refusal of the ambassador to comply with the prostrations there, with which his imperial majesty was not made acquainted, and for which neglect the two mandarins, Quong and Yin, were ordered to be degraded three degrees; and it proceeds to say, that the ambassador was lodged at a certain place called Yu-yuen, near the capital, that from thence he was conducted to the imperial palace, • Where (observes his Chinese Majesty) I was just about to ascend the throne to receive them, when the first and second were both taken ill, and could not appear before me. lo consequence of which I ordered them instantly to return to their own country, for it then occurred to me, that they had declined to comply with the ceremonies of the celese tial empire. With respect to their king who sent them on so long a royage across the vast ocean, to present to me a letter and to offer tribuie, it was undoubtedly his intention to pay us homage, and to obey our commands, which mark of submission we are unwilling entirely to reject, lest we also should fail to observe one of the fundamental rules of the celestial empire, that of affording our protection to petty kingdoms. For this reason we have thought fit to select the most trilling and least valuable of his articles of tribute ; namely, four maps, two portraits, and ninety-five prints, which we receive in order to confer some marks of our grace and favour. We have also ordered presents to be given to the king in return, namely, a Yue-shé, four large and eight small silk purses, to be conveyed to the said king; and this we do in conformity with the ancient and accustomeð rules of the celestial empire, of making richa gifts in return for things of little value. The ambassadors on the receipt of these presents were much delighted, and showed evident signs of surprise and astonishment.'

Well, indeed, they might !-- This extraordinary state-paper then proceeds to order the Viceroy of Canton to prepare an entertaininent for the ambassador, and dictates the speech he is to make on that occasion, which is nearly a repetition of what we have quoted; and it concludes by saying, should the ambassador again entreat that the rest of the presents may be received, you are merely to say, we have express orders to the contrary from the celestial em. peror, and we dare not again offend bis cars, -and with these words you will reject their supplications. Preparations were accordingly making by the Viceroy foragrand entertainment when the last shipscame away, and he had sent notice to the chief of the factory, that he had received the emperor's letter to the King of England, which would be delivered to the ambassador on his arrival.

These edicts contain all that was known at Canton of the proceed. ings of the embassy. It is clear enough, however, from them, that it had failed; that is to say, that the ambassador had saved his own character and the character of the nation he represented, at the expense of foregoing the gratification of beholding the dazzling rays of the celestial countenance,' and having the valuable presents sent out by the East India Company returned upon their hands. This is the sum total of the failure ; for we must repeat, that not only has the national character been upheld by the refusal of Lord Amherst to comply with a disgusting and degrading ceremony, which a former English and a Russian ambassador had also refused ; but that, individually, he will have experienced more consideration and at: tention from those very people who have failed in their attempts to degrade him, and, through him, the whole nation ; for the less that is conceded to this pusillanimous and insolent people, the more will their fears for the consequence begin to operate. What the issue of the embassy would have been, provided Lord Amherst had waved all personal considerations, and submitted to undergo the degrading ceremony, may be collected from the extreme con. descension of the two Dutch ambassadors, Titsingh and Van Briam. After Lord Macartney's failure, as it was also called, these two men imagined that a fine opening was allorded to the Dutch to obtain, by an unconditional subidission, all that the Eng. Jish had lost by their obstinate refusal. They began at Canton io bow their heads nine times to the ground betore a yellow skreen; to thank the emperor for having graciously condescended to permit them to appear before him with a letter and tribute ; and, before their return, they were brought on their knees and bowed their heads to the ground ninety-nine times at least, pour faire le salut d'honneur,' as Van Braam, with true Batavian composure, calls this humiliating ceremony ;-but, after all this compliance on the part of the Dutch, when they found themselves, in the capital, thrust into a stable where some cart horses were standing, poor Van's phlegm began to move a little, and he ventures to exclaim, 'Nous serions-nous attendus à une pareille avanture !! This was not all; for they were passed through the country literally like so many vagrants; lodged in wretched hovels, neither wind nor water tight : left sometimes by their bearers, perched in chairs in the midst of heaths, or on the summits of mountains; frequently without any provisions for whole days; and, in short, went through so many hardships, that Van Braam, who was a large man, says that he had lost on bis return a full foot in circumference! whereas, in the case of Lord Macartney, far from manifesting any petulance or ill-humour, which might have been expected from mortified pride, the Chinese showed every attention to the ambassador and his suite during the whole of their progress through the country.

But why object, we have heard it asked, to a ceremony which is the established usage of the country ? Lord Macartney, we think, has satisfactorily answered that question in urging the propriety of distinguishing between the homage of tributary princes, and the ceremony used on the part of a great and independent sovereign ;' and that it could not be expected that an ambassador of an independent sovereign should pay a greater bomage lo a foreign prince than to his own master, unless the compliment was made reciprocal. It is not true that the Chinese think little or nothing of their humiliating ceremony; had that been the case, the court of ceremonies would not have objected to Lord Macartney's proposal of a person of equal rank to his own performing the same ceremony before the King's portrait that he should be required to perform before the Emperor. We know not, of course, whether Lord Amherst was prepared to propose this reciprocity of compliment; but if he did, and it was not accepted, he was perfectly right in refusing as Lord Macartney had done. We cannot conceive a case where the representative of the sovereign of Great Britain should submit to a degradation which the representative of the Emperor Alexander had peremptorily resisted. The disappointment in not succeeding could not be more mortifying, nor the refusal less excusable, for Lord Amherst than for Count Goloffkin; the latter, after a long and fatiguing journey across the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

woods and deserts of Siberia, was stopped short just as he came in view of the promised land, and turned back, because he would neither bow the knee to the yellow skreen, nor promise to do so to the Baal himself, on his presentation at Pekin.

We have heard it asserted, that the Chinese protested against the case of Lord Macartney being drawn into a precedent, and that Lord Amherst was instructed to comply with the customary ceremonies: the first we know to be false; and the other we have every reason to believe to be so; it is not likely he should be instructed either to comply or to refuse, but to act according to his own discretion and to circumstances. If it be asked, Why send an embassy at all? the Directors of the East India Company can best answer such a question. They only, and their servants, know the comparative situation of their affairs at Canton, before and after the mission of Lord Macartney: since that mission, a new generation has sprung up; old grievances were revived; all manner of vexatious impediments and insulting conduct were daily directed against our trade, and those who conducted it; the native servants were forbic den to engage themselves to Europeans; and the latter were probibited from addressing the local authorities in the Chinese language

, which is the only language they understand ; supplies of provisious were stopped to his Majesty's ships, and cargoes withheld from those of the Company; ihe magistrates entered the factory without permission or previous notice ; and many other offensive proceed. ings were instiluted which seemed too plainly to indicate a dispo sition to return to a system of oppression and insult, which, though it might have been submitted to in the early stage of our intercourse, could scarcely now be endured. Inthis state of things, thegentlemen of the factory, two years ago, came to the spirited resolution of withdrawing the whole of the ships of the season (with their cargoes yet unloaded) from the river, and of appealing at once to the court of Pekin: and Sir George Staunton, who conducted the difficult and delicate discussions, was under the necessity of actually removing the British flag from the factory, and proceeding down the river to carry their intentions into effect, when the natural timidity like of the Chinese got the better of their insolence; and a deputation was sent after him to entreat his return and continue the negotiations. It might, therefore, and probably was, deemed adviseable to remind these corrupt provincialauthorities, by another embassy, that the gentlemen of the English factory at Canton were not a set of unprotected adventurers, as they were inclined to consider them. Beyond the

wish of obtaining justice and protection forour trade,the East India Company could have nothing to ask; and when we cobo sider the magnitude and importance of that trade, which employs from England more than 20,000 tons of shipping, and from ludia

« AnteriorContinuar »