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Harry G. Gelber-Opium, Soldiers and Evangelicals (2004)


Opium, Soldiers and EvangelicalsBritains 184042 War with China, and its Aftermath

Harry G. Gelber

Opium, Soldiers and Evangelicals


Opium, Soldiers and EvangelicalsBritains 184042 War with China, and its Aftermath

Professor Harry G. GelberVisiting Research Fellow, London School of Economics

Harry G. Gelber, 2004 All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission. No paragraph of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, or under the terms of any licence permitting limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, 90 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 4LP. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. The author has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. First published 2004 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS and 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010 Companies and representatives throughout the world PALGRAVE MACMILLAN is the global academic imprint of the Palgrave Macmillan division of St. Martins Press, LLC and of Palgrave Macmillan Ltd. Macmillan is a registered trademark in the United States, United Kingdom and other countries. Palgrave is a registered trademark in the European Union and other countries. ISBN 1403907005 hardback This book is printed on paper suitable for recycling and made from fully managed and sustained forest sources. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Gelber, Harry Gregor. Opium, soldiers and evangelicals : Englands 184042 war with China and its aftermath/Harry G. Gelber. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1-4039-0700-5 1. ChinaHistoryOpium War, 18401842. 2. Great BritainForeign relationsChina. 3. ChinaForeign relationsGreat Britain. I. Title: Englands 184042 war with China and its aftermath. II. Title. DS757.5.G45 2004 951 .033dc22 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 13 12 11 10 09 08 07 06 05 04 Printed and bound in Great Britain by Antony Rowe Ltd, Chippenham and Eastbourne 2003063052

To my grandchildren


Introduction 1 Mission to Canton 2 Palmerstons England, the World and China 3 Its More Than Trade, Stupid! Canton 183538 4 The British and Commissioner Lin 1839 5 London Debates 183940 6 Fighting and Talking: Elliot 184041 7 The Yangzi Campaign: Pottinger 184142 8 Almost a Settlement 9 Clashes Continue: Britain and China after the War 10 China: Resentment Congeals into Nationalism 11 Britain: Evangelicals, Humanitarians and Guilt Notes Select Bibliography Index

ix 1 19 40 60 80 102 125 147 160 187 203 218 235 245


IntroductionThe Anglo-Chinese War of 184042, usually known as the First Opium War has received a good deal of modern attention. It has, for the last hundred years or so, been discussed and analysed very largely with the Chinese as the injured party and with British views and policies thought to be in various ways deplorable. Arguably the most important strands have been two linked ones. The first has had to do with admiration of China and its civilization together with growing understanding of the problems of the nineteenth-century Chinese empire. Some works also went on to point out something which had been recognized quite early on the sheer confusion of purposes between the Chinese and the British. Not only over opium but, at least equally, over equality of treatment between states and governments, over systems of justice and the appropriate treatment by sovereign states and empires of foreign residents. The other line of criticism has come from the broad stream of antiimperialism. That, in turn, has its roots in two widely divergent views of the world. These are in principle incompatible, though Christian Socialism has made valiant attempts to link them. One is Marxism, which sees imperialism as a combination of class oppression and, as both Lenin and J.A. Hobson have famously argued, economic exploitation. The other is the view from Christian evangelism, most strongly expressed through the extremely effective propaganda conducted over decades by the Christian missionaries in China and their churches in Britain and America. The result has been a combination of ideas of uncommon power. There is the suspicion on the political Left of all notions of profit; the view that all modern economic and industrial organization has always been likely to result in the unfair exploitation of workers in this case in the exploitation of the Chinese by cynical British merchants and statesmen. Together with this sympathy for the working man (or his equivalent) have gone notions of the brotherhood of man and therefore, given the sheer political and industrial power of the West, its responsibility for the poorer and less advanced. In addition, from the late nineteenth century and, more forcibly still from early in the twentieth, came quite novel views about the evils of drugs and the drug trade. The view took hold encouraged by theix



Chinese that Britain had been in the business of persuading, even forcing, opium on the Chinese, with hugely harmful social consequences and purely in the interests of vile profit. And when China tried to resist, the British used superior firepower to get their way. Here, it was argued, was one important contribution to the growing disintegration of the Chinese empire from the middle of the nineteenth century, with all the suffering and hardship which that entailed. In all that, rather less attention has been paid to the question of what the British government, and London opinion, thought they were doing and why. Hence this book. It regards the 184042 war as the focus of Anglo-Chinese relations for virtually the whole period from the 1830s to the Chinese revolution of 1911. In that discussion it stresses British perspectives and the points of view of the government and of Parliament in London; and points to the low priority which Chinese affairs had in a foreign policy far more urgently concerned with a dozen other issues. And how, quite clearly, the British saw themselves as very much the injured party before and during the war that ended with the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing. The point is not, of course, to discount or play down the Chinese point of view. It is simply to sketch why the British did what they did, and how China and the world, and British responsibilities in that world, looked to people in London at the time. It therefore tries to deal with three questions. First, what is the evidence for saying that the 183942 conflict was an opium war? Second, how did the conflict come to be known by that title? Why did a later generation in Britain and America come to accept as conventional wisdom that the British had been wicked, sinful and grasping, and had even forced opium on the Chinese? Third, what role did that war play in the difficult and painful transition of China, in the period 18301911, from the condition of a somewhat antiquated empire to the threshold of modern nation-statehood? I am grateful to the London School of Economics and to friends and colleagues in the Department of International Relations, which has been my academic home during the writing of this book.

1Mission to Canton

On 15 July 1834 a trim Royal Navy frigate, the Andromache, cast anchor at Macao, on the South China coast, and put ashore William John, the 8th Baron Napier, the British Governments first-ever representative in the Chinese Empire. His task was to supervise British merchants at the nearby trading port of Canton (new Guangzhou); but his arrival triggered disputes that led to war a mere six years later. He landed in his splendid blue-and-gold uniform of a captain of the Royal Navy. A local merchant described him as a tall, raw Scotchman with light hair,1 with a trim figure, fine features and a prominent nose. He had started as a midshipman in the last days of the old century and served under Nelson at Trafalgar. He was not a particularly sharp or subtle fellow, but even his early contemporaries thought him strong, brave and not easily rattled. After Napoleons defeat at Waterloo he found the notion of peacetime service unattractive, so he went on half pay to look after his estate in Scotland and the family he had barely seen in his years at sea. Then, in 1830 an old ship-mate, a royal prince who had just become King William IV, took him away from breeding sheep and brought him to London as a lord-in-waiting. Three years later, in August 1833, the British East India Companys legal monopoly of the China trade came to an end by Act of Parliament. That threw the trade open to all comers, and it became necessary to appoint official superintendents to look after the traders. Napier, after his time in the social whirl of London, decided that the new post of Chief Superintendent, at the very handsome salary of 6000 per annum (Todays values [tv] 291,000)2 would be just the thing for an unemployed naval officer with a large brood of children to care for. With the kings support, he applied to the Prime Minister, Lord Grey. By December 1833 he was duly appointed,3 and on 7 February 1834 he1