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The civil and statistical work,* abstracted by Dr. Morrison, after stating all the sources of income, proceeds to give the items of expenditure. It begins with the salaries and allowances in silver, grain, and silk, to the princes and nobles about the court, which have already been noticed in the eleventh chapter. The officers of government receive both pay and allowances, the pay being often a mere trifle, but the allowances on a liberal scale. The legal emoluments of the governor of a province are 15,000 taëls, or 50001., in silver, the value of which is much higher with them than with us. The treasurer of a province who collects and remits the land-tax, &c., has 9000 taëls. After paying the court, the civil service, and the army, the Board of Revenue has to issue relief to those districts of the empire which have suffered from drought, inundation, locusts, or earthquakes. The various sources of regular income appear to be inadequate to the necessities of the state, and hence the need of resorting to unacknowledged fees and assessments. “ His present majesty on his accession,” observes Dr. Morrison, “ ordered all fees to be discontinued ; but he did so by the advice of a novice. All the governors of provinces immediately memorialized, and declared the orders utterly impracticable. The emperor then turned round, confessed his inexperience, censured his adviser, and revoked the order.”
It has been observed before that the Tartar soldiers are paid, in part, by grants of land. In western Tartary, parties of military, of 800 or 1000, are settled down to cultivate the waste lands, serving at the same time to control the native population. They generally produce grain enough for their own subsistence. Soong-ta-jin (the conductor of Lord Macartney) recommended that
* Ta-tsing Hoey-tien.
each man should have a piece of land given him as a perpetual inheritance; but the government objected, on the ground that he would neglect martial exercises to cultivate his private farm; and that region (they added) was too important to intrust to undisciplined troops. The Chinese troops settled towards the Russian frontier, from the Saghalian westward, are generally agriculturists. To a station on that river some criminals were sent, to be coerced by the regular troops, and to work for them. They behaved well, and the Emperor Yoong-ching (the third of the Manchows) forgave their crimes, and granted them lands. He remarked on that occasion, “ It may be seen from this occurrence, that, if criminals have a path of self-renovation opened to them, there is reason to hope they will reform their vices and become moral.”
Some mode of increasing its regular income attracted the serious attention of the government of China. In a Peking gazette,* dated the 11th of October, 1833, there appeared the result of deliberations between the several supreme boards, and that particular one which has especial charge of the revenue. They had formed a committee of ways and means, and the object was to increase the income for current expenses, because, during the last few years, the outlay had exceeded the receipts by more that thirty millions of taëls. They were, in short, employed upon the great problem of government, which has been thus defined by Voltaire_." à prendre le plus d'argent qu'on peut à une grande partie des citoyens, pour le donner à une autre partie.” The defalcation is attributed, and with apparent reason, to the suppression of two rebellions among the Mahomedan Tartars, adherents of Jehanghir Khojah, and to the inroads of the Meaou-tse, north-west of Canton. But besides these
* Chinese Repository, vol. ii. p. 430.
sources of expense, there has been an unprecedented train of calamities in the shape of deluge and drought, making it necessary to remit large amounts of land-tax in different provinces ; while the repairs of the Yellow River, and its neighbouring streams, drained both the general and provincial treasuries. Expense was thus increased, at the same time that income was diminished. At length came the crowning disaster of the war with England, which, besides its inevitable expenditure and losses, imposed an indemnity of 27,000,000 dollars, including the Canton ransom.
The expedient that was adopted for raising money, being directly contrary to what may be termed the leading principle of the Chinese system, that of eligibility to office by learning and talent alone, might perhaps be considered as boding ill to the actual rulers of the country. The rank of Kiujin, which qualifies for employment, and, by the fundamental law of the country, should be attainable by no other road than that of approved learning, has been sold for money, as offices in France were under the old régime. But so opposed is this to the universal sentiment of the empire, and to the expectations of the proper candidates for employment, that a short limit is set to the period of its exercise. On the occasion in question the term was restricted to about nine months. The system is considered altogether bad. Many of the old purchasers remain unemployed; and those who get into office, having bought their places, deem it but fair to repay themselves as fast as possible from the people. Various other expedients have been proposed ; some were for opening the mines; some advised raising the price of salt; others recommended that rich merchants and monopolists should subscribe for the wants of the state. It has been already mentioned that one or two of the late Hong merchants obtained the decoration of the peacock’s feather for contributing a round sum towards the military operations against the mountaineers. The present government of the country is evidently hard pressed for means, and distressed by any unusual draft on its resources.
Although, as we have before endeavoured to demonstrate, the very different condition of China in respect to wealth and prosperity has argued a system of government much superior to what prevails under other Asiatic despotisms; although, as long as we are to judge of the tree by its fruits, a large share of good government must have been the general rule; it is evident that the rule is without its exceptions. The emperor—the theoretical father of his people—does not find it so easy openly to impose new taxes as his necessities may require them ; and his power, though absolute in name, is limited in reality by the endurance of the people, and by the laws of necessity. Our own country has proved the fact of the largest amount of direct taxation being levied under a limited monarchy, and through the delegates of the people themselves; and the English House of Commons has done a great deal more than the Emperor of China could probably attempt with safety. He is therefore obliged, to a certain extent, and on particular occasions, to let functionaries pay themselves—the worst possible form of taxation. The real amount levied in this manner from the people becomes greater than the nominal, and the excess is incalculably more mischievous than if fairly and directly obtained. In reference to this system and its consequences, the Chinese have a saying, that “ the greater fish eat the smaller ; the smaller eat the shrimps; and the shrimps are obliged to eat mud.”
Coinage of base metal — Silver passes by weight – Paper currency
Pawnbroking — Interest of money - Internal commerce – Disadvantages of Canton for English trade — Origin of Hong merchants Imposts on foreign shipping – Linguists — Smuggling — Trade in opium — New law against it — Black teas — Green teas — Preparation of tea — Spurious green teas - European tea-trade — Increase of English trade since 1842.
The government of China issues no other coin than the base metal Tchen, composed of copper and zinc, with perhaps some lead, and in value considerably less than the tenth part of a penny.* On one side is the title of the reigning emperor, with two words denoting “current value," while the reverse bears a Tartar inscription. In the centre of each of these coins is a square hole, through which they are strung together by hundreds to save counting, and in this state look something like strings of sausages. Many years ago, a specimen of a single coin having by some chance been dropped in an unfrequented part of the United Kingdom, the person who picked it up carried the mystery to a learned antiquary, who having written a long essay on the subject, in which every conjecture was hazarded but the true one, a representation of the strange coin, with the essay
* It appears that the white shells called cowries have been, and perhaps still are, in use as a medium of exchange about the provinces bordering on India and Ava, particularly Yun-nân. They are called by the Chinese hae-fei, “fat of the sea," and three of them seem to have been exchanged for one copper coin.