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river on its arrival, with a view effectually to draw attention to the subject*.
On the 8th September an address was sent to the Viceroy, in which the principal points urged were, the necessity for adding to the number of Hong mere chants; the heavy port-charge on ships at Whampoa, amounting on a small vessel to about £800 sterling; and some check on the rapacity of the Government officers connected with the customs. The reply and subsequent proceedings of the Viceroy were in favour of making new Hong merchants, but unsatisfactory as to other points; and the committee, on the 16th November, renewed their remonstrances, and continued the detention of the ships at their present anchorage. The local authorities, however, showed no disposition to swerve from their last declaration, and the Viceroy added, “As to commerce, let the said nation do as it pleases ; as to regulations, those that the celestial empire fixes must be obeyed.” The discussions continued without any alteration on either side until the 11th January, at which date the necessity was contemplated of sending the greater number of ships over to Manila, until the Chinese Government should be induced to concede the points in dispute.
The committee, at the same time, applied to the Governor-general of India to assist them by forwarding a representation to Peking, and suggested the expediency of some ships of war being sent to give weight to their representations: the supreme Government, however, declined interfering without
* In 1832 a newly-made Hongist took for his establishment (according to custom) a particular designation, and the one selected by him signified * happiness, or prosperity, complete;" but this was rather premature, for, before he could begin trading, all his capital was expended in fees or bribes to the mandarins, and he failed.
DISCUSSIONS WITH CHINESE.
authority from home. There is reason to apprehend that the Chinese authorities had been confirmed in their obstinacy by a knowledge of the fact, that the committee were not unanimous, the majority being opposed to Mr. William Plowden, the chief supercargo, who at length, finding himself at variance with his colleagues, and of little weight in the factory, made
his mind to quit China, which he did about the end of January. The Viceroy, on the 2d February, issued an edict, stating that an additional Hong merchant had been already appointed, and that others would follow; that the debts of the two bankrupt Hongs would be paid; and that the subject of the port-charges had been referred to the Emperor. This appeared to the committee sufficiently satisfactory to warrant their ordering the fleet up to Whampoa, and on the 8th of the month the Viceroy was apprized of their having done so. By the 1st of March three new Hongs were created.
Matters now proceeded in peace and quietness, and the ships were all laden and sent home as usual ; but, in the following season, events occurred, which threatened at one time to produce much confusion and mischief. The detail is instructive, as it shows from what small and contemptible beginnings the most serious results may ensue, in a place like Canton, where the Chinese and strangers live, in respect to each other, very much in what the lawyers call “ a state of nature,” that is, governed by no rule but their own passions or interests. A Swiss watchmaker, named Bovet, lodged in the same factory with some Parsees*, having a back entrance common to the
* Natives of Bombay, fire-worshippers, or disciples of Zoroaster, and the real representatives of those ancient Persians who fought with the Greeks. They left their country after its conquest by the Mahometans, and settled in the west of India, and are the most commercial of our Eastern subjects.
premises. The watchmaker, being a violent fellow, took it
upon himself to fasten ир this gate, on the ground of the annoyance that he experienced from the free passage. This, as might be expected, very soon led to a squabble : an unfortunate man named Mackenzie, master of a trading vessel, being roused by a loud disturbance about nightfall, ran down with a stick, and struck one of the most active of the Parsees, upon which they all fell upon him, and inflicted such blows as occasioned his death.
The Parsees were immediately shipped off by the committee as prisoners to Bombay; but the Chinese presently applied for the delivery of the homicides for trial (or rather execution), quoting the case of the Frenchman who had killed a Portuguese in 1780*. At the same moment, an edict was issued by the Viceroy, insisting on the removal from Canton, forthwith, of the President's lady, who had proceeded thither contrary to the custom by which females were restricted to Macao; and no unequivocal threats were held out, that force would be resorted to in the event of non-compliance. This, combined with the risk to which Mackenzie's murder seemed to expose the English, led the committee to order up from the fleet a guard of about a hundred seamen, and a couple of eighteen-pounders, informing the Hongists that until the threats were withdrawn, these men should not be removed. This measure having been adopted with celerity and vigour, was successful in intimidating the Chinese. An assurance was given that no violence was intended, upon which the guns and men were ordered down to the ships, after having been about a fortnight at Canton.
The Court of Directors had in the mean while disapproved of the detention of their ships in the preceding season, and superseded the committee,
* Page 62.