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ON THE CHINA AND THE OPIUM QUESTION.
ON the 11th of May this article went to press. And on the 15th day of May the Lords' debate being then circulated through Edinburgh, it firs became known to us, that between our views on this remarkable question, and those of the Duke of Wellington, as now brought forward by party collision, there were some pointed coincidences. Any man in the world may be proud of a coincidence, in a matter so complex, with the illustrious Duke. And the business of this Postscript is accordingly
First of all, to establish and claim the benefit of that coincidence: to show that it was such; and that our agreements with the Duke are not consequent upon any communication that we could have had with the noble Duke's opinions. The statement of dates, as given above, shows satisfactorily that our speculations upon this great Oriental crisis-however closely approaching to the Duke's-must have had a separate and independent origin. Indirectly, also, we are proud to establish our claims in this way, as having fairly appreciated the probable course of Tory doctrines upon so elaborate a question, and of Tory policy, at a time when neither one nor the other had been circumstantially developed; when it was not yet fully known where the Tory blame and praise would settle as to the past; nor in what precise channel the Tory policy would travel as to the future.
Secondly, To explain any case, however subordinate, in which we appear to have differed from the Duke; and in which, according to the extent of our differences, the presumption is that we must be wrong.
Thirdly, Without reference to any claim or any explanation on our own account, it is a purpose of this Postscript to tell the general reader who cares not for the person saying, but simply for the thing said-How far we have found reason to modify any opinion previously delivered after the benefit we acknowledge to have received from this discussion, before so enlightened a senate as the House of Lords; and more particularly, whether we have any fresh views to offer after the affair has been brought under the review of the most sagacious and the most experienced amongst modern statesmen.
Amidst the sharp musketry of a Parliamentary debate, it is the general feeling, that the Duke of Wellington's opinions or suggestions tell like cannonshot. Whatsoever falls from him is received by the country as having an oracular value. And in this present instance of the China debate, his authority has told so effectually as to have crushed, by anticipation, a second debate pending contingently in the House of Commons. Notice of a motion on this subject has been expressly withdrawn upon the ground of the powerful impression made by the Duke of Wellington. It becomes, therefore, the more important that we should throw a glance over the points established by His Grace, as they accord so entirely with our own previous view, and strengthen so greatly the opinions, and the grounds of those opinions, which we had already expressed in print.
The whole field of the questions concerned divides into two great sections -the past, and the future: the past, in relation to the criminality which has brought on the crisis-how that criminality is to be distributed amongst the several parties to the transaction; the future, in relation to the policy which must now be applied to the successful unraveling of this crisis. What is past, undoubtedly cannot be recalled: but it is not the less important to understand it thoroughly, both for the purpose of framing measures to prevent its recurrence, and because our whole policy, even where it is and must be of a warlike character, will, undoubtedly, need to be shaped very differently, accordingly as it contemplates a case of mixed aggressions, partly British, partly Chinese, or a case of horrible outrage (in the way we have maintained, and in the way it now appears the Duke of Wellington maintains) exclusively Chinese, and utterly unprovoked.
The parties liable to inculpation, as having participated in the proceedings
at some stage or other, are three :-The Chinese Government, the British opium-dealers, and our own domestic Administration. Let us pass them in rapid review, and weigh the distribution of blame among these three parties as awarded by the illustrious Duke.
I. The Chinese Government.-Here the Duke's statements are not only, as we described them to be generally, like cannon-shot in their effect, but are like such shot, in its course and mode of progress, as described in Schiller's Wallenstein "shattering what it reaches, and shattering that it may reach." Not only does he shatter the object of his attack-the immoral government of China-but, in his road to that object, he goes right through the centre of all who have in this country undertaken the apology of that government. Had the Chinese even stood upon any fair ground of right in the first stages of the case, they would have forfeited that advantage in the last: "for," says the Duke, "in all the fifty years of my own experience as a servant of my country-no, nor in any part of my reading-have I met with such another case of outrage as that authorized by the rulers of China to our accredited agent.' And if some people object-Oh! but the Chinese would not recognise Captain Elliot as an accredited agent-they would not receive a British official representative-in that case so much the worse: because then Captain Elliot had the rights of a private individual; and there was no more plea open to the Chinese Government for making him responsible than any obscure sailor taken at random.
So much for the last stages of the Chinese conduct: and here the Duke does but strengthen an impression which is open to us all. But as to the first stages, by a reference to sources of information more special and personal, he cuts the ground from below the feet of the Chinese Government in a way peculiar to himself. We could but suspect: for we had no documents. The Duke proves he had ample documents. In papers furnished to the Lords he had seen, in a Committee of the Lords he had heard, direct evidence-proof not to be gainsaid or shaken-that the acting administration of China, those persons, one and all, whom we aliens are required to consider and to treat as the respon sible government of the land, had through a series of years encouraged the importation of opium. There flutters to the winds a whole library of polemic pamphlets. After this, is it any thing to us, whether in such a case, and many another case, the Emperor is, or is not, kept in the dark by the mandarins? We are bound to know the Emperor's pleasure through those whom he deputes to us as his representatives. We can know it in no other way. internal abuses of their Government are for their own consciences. To us they are nothing. And there, at one blow from the mace of the iron Duke, lies in splinters upon the floor almost every pro-Chinese pleading which has taken up the ground of morality.
II.-The British Opium-Dealers. Upon this head the Duke is overwhelming. Their acquittal, indeed, is involved in the fact which has been just stated on the Duke's authority with regard to the Chinese administration. If that body encouraged importation, in respect of them the importers cannot be wrongdoers. There might be room for some wrong in relation to our British Government: because, if they had happened to forbid the opium traffic wisely or foolishly, then it might have been a fair plea at home" Look for no British aid if China should injure you in respect to an interest which we have discountenanced." So much room and no more, there might have been for wrong on the side of the opium merchants. There might have been—but was there? Hear the all-shattering Duke :
First he declares-that, so far from even looking gloomily upon this opium commerce, Parliament had cherished it, suggested its extension, and deliberately examined the means at their disposal for promoting its success, as a favoured resource both of finance and of trade. The Duke reminds the House -that he himself, with other patriotic peers, had been parties to a committee, of which one main business was to recommend and introduce (by way of substitution for the privileges lost to the East India Company on throwing open their trade) some modified form of a monopoly with regard to opium.
Secondly, if this should be thought to shift the blame from the merchants to the British Parliament-in order to make it any duty of our legisla
tors that they should interfere to stop the opium traffic, first of all we must have such a measure made out to be a possibility. Now the Duke puts down that notion ex abundanti. For, at a time when certain intolerable treaties with native princes had armed us with a machinery towards this result, such as we never shall have again, and never ought to have had, even then we could not succeed in operating upon the trade, except after the following fashion:-Our Indian Government proclaimed restrictions: our merchants, native as well as British, evaded them. Our Government made another move in the game, evading the evasions. Our merchants, wide-awake, counter-evaded the evasions of their own evasions. And thus the sport proceeded, the two parties doubling upon each other, and dodging like an old experienced hare against a greyhound: until at last, upon a necessity arising for the Government to abolish the treaties, we were obliged to whip off the dogs, and the game party of merchants had it all their own way. Lord Ellenborough, whose former experience at the Board of Control made his evidence irresistible on this point, confirmed all that the Duke had said; with circumstantial illustrations of this vain race with the merchants, and showing that even for that ineffectual trial of strength, our Indian Government enjoyed some momentary advantages which it must never count upon for the future. We have seen the best of our facilities for such a conflict with private interest. Even then it was a hopeless conflict: à fortiori it will be so hereafter. Impossibilities are no subjects for legislation: by civil law-" nemo tenetur facere impossibilia."
Thirdly-But possible or not in a practical and executive sense, if it is our duty to restrain any given social nuisance; we must not plead our impotence in bar of complaints against us : and in default of our own restraints, we must not complain if others suffering by the nuisance take that remedy into their own hands which we profess to have found too difficult for ours. Other checks failing, let us not complain of those for redressing the evil who suffer by the annoyance. Certainly not. Nor do we complain. Nor is there any thing to that effect involved in any one British act, or in any one argument that ha been built upon it. We quarrel with no nation for enforcing her rights of domestic policy, so long as she keeps herself within the methods of international justice. But, with respect to China, we make two demurs: we refuse to hear of any people raising their separate municipal law into a code of international law: it is not merely insolence, but it is contradictory folly to suppose, that, in a dispute between two independent parties, one of the parties is to constitute himself umpire for both. This demur we make in the first place. And secondly, we say, that, apart from her savage modes of redressing civil wrongs, China has, in this instance, forfeited her claim to any redress from her long collusion with the wrongdoers, whom now in caprice she accuses; and because, not only she participated through every class of her population in the opium traffic, which with us rested on the support of those only who were naturally, inevitably, without bribes, the agents of such a traffic, but also because she was the original tempter, inviter, hirer, clamorous suborner, of that intercourse which now she denounces. Roguery, like other tastes, has its fashions. Chinese roguery and court intrigue are now, it seems, blowing from some fresh point of the compass. Be it so. We argue not against any nation's caprices. But we refuse to hear of our merchants andour sailors being made the victims to such caprices-this year inviting the man whom next year they crucify.
That duty, therefore, which so many are urging against us, as binding our faith and tying our hands in the collision with China, the Duke of Wellington disowns as being a pure chimera under the circumstances of the case. the other hand, says the Duke, whilst these men argue for an obligation of conscience which cannot be sustained, observe the real and solemn obligations, some notorious, some implied in treaties, which these disputants are goading us to trample under foot. That duty of superintendence applied to opium, which is merely fanciful as regards China under the circumstances created by herself, we really do owe, and shall for many years owe, to native powers of Hindostan. We came under such obligations by contracts, by cessions in our favour, by diplomatic acts, long since locked up into the public diplomacy of India. We cannot disturb those arrangements without a sympathetic violence running through the whole tenure, guarantees, compensations of all Indian
chanceries. We were long ago pledged to the protection of many vested interests rooted in the poppy-growing districts. If we should co-operate with China in vainly attempting to exclude Indian opium from the vast unprotected coasts of China, we undertake the following series of follies: we lend ourselves to a caprice of a hostile government; to a caprice levelled at our own power: we undertake to do for China what she is laughably impotent to do for herself: we take upon ourselves the expenses of an act so purely hostile to ourselves, which expense would else soon recall China to her senses and lastly, as if such a course of follies were not complete without an appendix of spoliation, we purchase the means of this aid to our enemy by the sacrifice of debts, duties, contracts, guarantees to the closest of our neighbours, and, amongst our Indian allies, to some of the oldest and most hopeful. The Duke of Wellington, we must remember, is at home in the affairs of India. And this particular suggestion, as to the rights and interests of provinces likely to be affected by any compromises with China, belongs entirely to his Grace. Until this vein of interests had been exposed, it was supposed that a policy of concession to China would simply pledge us to a maniacal course: whereas the Duke has shown that it would pledge us also to perfidy, to a general infraction of treaties, and to a convulsion of industry and political economy through many channels in which they are now prosperously flowing.
Such is the circuit of the Duke's logic. Travelling round the circle of parties concerned, when he hears it said of the Chinese-They have received an injury amounting to a cause of war, “By no means," he replies; "they courted what they complain of. I have proof that they did." When he hears it said of the merchants-Their trade must be stopped-he replies: "I defy you to stop it: the thing has been tried, and was laid aside as impossible." When it is retorted-"Well, if is an inveterate abuse, at least it is an abuse," the Duke rejoins, "No abuse at all: Parliament recognised an old right, created a new one, in the opium growers." "But, at least, justice to China requires that the right should be forborne in that instance." "On the contrary," the Duke again instructs us, "justice to India requires, that in that instance, above all others, the right should be protected and favoured." Thus pertinaciously does this champion of truth and scourge of false pretensions ride round the ring, and sustain the assault against all comers who would make a breach through the barriers of equity or civil policy.
But, after all these parties are disposed of, there still remains,
III. Our domestic Administration.-Now in what degree the Duke of Wellington condemns their policy, in its want of foresight, may be gathered from his special complaints, both now and formerly, of the twofold defects at Canton-defect of naval force, defect of naval judicatories; and, more generally, from his complaint that far too great an onus was thrown upon the responsibilities of Captain Elliot; too much, in fact, for any one man unrelieved by a council to support. His objections, indeed, to the Ministry come forward indirectly in the errors which he exposes, and the cautions which he suggests. But the reasons why the Duke makes no pointed attack on Lord Melbourne's government are, first of all, the general principles which govern this great servant of the state in all movements-viz. his anxiety for ever to look round the wide horizon for some national benefit, rather than into a local corner for some party triumph; and, secondly, because upon this particular question of China, the present Ministry are not so much opposed to the Tories, as to a fantastic party of moral sentimentalists, who, by force of investing the Chinese with feelings unintelligible to Pagans, (substituting at the same time a romance for the facts of the case,) have terminated in forcing upon the public eye a false position of the whole interest at stake; a position in which all the relations of person are inverted, in which things are confounded, and our duties (otherwise so clear) are utterly perplexed. It is this anti-national party who, on these questions of Opium and China, form the true antagonist pole to the Ministry. As to us Tories, we are here opposed to the party in office, only in so far as they have conceded to the Chinese. Where they have met this arrogant people with an English resistance, we praise them, honour them, support them. And exactly upon that mixed principle of judgment it has been that the Duke, seeing the strong primary demand that he should support them, has less
diligently sought out those secondary cases in which it would have been necessary for him to blame or to condemn them.
Thus far with regard to the Past, and the general distribution of blame which that review must prompt. As to the Future, and the particular courses of Oriental policy which any speculation pointed in that direction must suggest for comparison-it will be remarked, as a singularity in so great a soldier when facing a question so purely martial, that the Duke of Wellington declines to offer any opinion whatever on the possible varieties of warfare, on the modes of combining the land and sea forces, on the local opportunities for applying them with effect, on the best general chances of success, or the permanent object to be kept in view. But let us not misinterpret this high-principled reserve. Some persons have drawn the inference so as to load the Duke of Wellington with the responsibility of having doubted whether a warlike course were, in our circumstances, an advisable course. Nothing of the sort. Not war, but this war; not a warlike policy as generally indicated by our situation, but that kind of policy as governed by our present disposable means, and moving under some particular plan, of which the very outline is yet unknown and the scale is yet unassigned-that it is which the Duke drew back from appreciating. Knowing the immense weight which must follow any opinion from himself upon a matter so professionally falling within his right of judgment, he forebore to prejudge a scheme of war as to which Europe was hanging on his lips. But, as to war generally, that the Duke does not encourage doubts of the necessity to support our pacific relation at all times by showy demonstrations of our readiness for fighting-is evident from the constant recurrence in his own Chinese state-papers of warlike suggestions. It is almost comic to observe what stress he lays, in sketching the line of argument to be employed by British negotiators with China, upon "a stout frigate" within hail.
In one point only we are reminded, whilst closing, of a difference between the Duke of Wellington's views and those which we had previously expressed. As this point respects an individual officer, it is fit that we should do him justice by the whole vast preponderance which belongs to the Duke of Wellington's praise over any man's censure. We had blamed Captain Elliot: the Duke praises him with a fervour that must constitute Captain Elliot's proudest recollection through life. But the truth is we speak of different things. We spoke of Captain Elliot as identified with his principals, and as representing their line of policy. The Duke speaks of him as a separate individual, acting, in a moment of danger, according to a true British sense of duty upon sudden emergencies, for which he could have received no instructions from England. In his firm refusals to give up Mr Dent, and afterwards the six sailors demanded by Lin, Captain Elliot's conduct was worthy of his country. And the Duke of Wellington, who is always right, reminds us, by his fervent commendation, of our own error in having neglected to place those acts in that light of exemplary merit which belongs to them.
And here we cannot help saying a word or two of one of the few men in any period who has lived to see his own consecration in human affections, and has had a foretaste of his own immortality on earth. Let us briefly notice the Duke of Wellington's present position amongst us; which is remarkable, and almost unique. Until within these few years this great man had been adequately appreciated according to the means which the nation then possessed for framing a judgment of his merits. We measured him, that is to say, by his acts. Europe had seen him as a soldier had seen him as an ambassador-no ceremonial ambassador, but in a general congress of nations still rocking with the agitations of convulsions without a parallel, as a mediatorial ambassador for adjudicating the rights of the world: finally, Europe had seen him as a prime minister of England. In the first character, as the leader of " the faithful armies" which, under whatever name, did in reality sustain the interests of human nature and the cause of civilisation upon earth, it would be idle to speak of him. In the two last characters, it was the general feeling of England that the Duke of Wellington had exemplified "the majesty of plain dealing" upon a scale never before witnessed, and in functions to which such a spirit of dealing was hardly supposed applicable. Thus far we all did him right, but we also did him