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Peer Reviewed

Representing "Great England" to Qing China in the Age of Free Trade Imperialism: The Circulation of a Tract by Charles Marjoribanks on the China Coast

Ting Man Tsao, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY


The English Character

October 30th, [1831]

We here record a brief view of the English character and policy which has been drawn up in the Chinese Language, to be made use of at a future period by being printed, should it be desirable. The public mind in China has been so much influenced by Low Placards traducing the foreign character that we are induced to believe some counteracting influence may prove most beneficial, and that when the officers of Government find they have no longer the power of misrepresentation in their own hand they may be induced hereafter to abstain from proceedings so injurious to our character and interests.
Brief Account of the English character.

The English people inhabit a Country at the distance of 16,000 miles from China, at least this space is passed over by Ships, from the necessity of their proceeding round the Southern promontory of the great continent of Africa. Some idea may be formed of the spirit and enterprise of a Nation, whose Vessels traverse so vast an ocean in safety and with facility. They frequently encounter severe tempests, but from the Skill of their officers and the bold and daring character of the Seamen, Ships are rarely lost. Pirates or enemies do not venture to attack them. They bring the manufactures and productions of remote Countries and receive in exchange those of China. By this means the Subjects, both of the Chinese and British Empires are enriched, industry is greatly encouraged, and men rendered happy and useful members of Society.
The English have traded for upwards of two hundred years with China, and from Sixty to Eighty vessels under the English Flag are frequently within twelve months in the Chinese waters. To how many tens of thousands of natives does not such a Commerce give useful employment.
The policy of the English Government, has often in China been most falsely represented, and it has been stated to be ambitious, and desirous of increase of territory. No assertion can be more distant from truth. The Dominions of England are already so large that the policy of its Government, is rather to diminish, than to enlarge them. Besides the Mother Country, it has several valuable possessions in Europe, it has large territories in North America and numerous islands in the West Indies. The Cape of Good Hope in Africa belongs to it, it has several prosperous settlements in Australia, numerous islands in Asia, are subject to its will, and the magnitude of its Indian Empire is so great, that it comprises upwards of a hundred millions of Subjects. The small settlements of Penang, Martaban, and Malacca, and Singapore are those most contiguous to China. The Government of so great an Empire has no Thirst for Conquest. The great object, and aim, is to preserve its subjects in a condition of happiness and tranquillity. But while most desirous of doing so, it is very jealous of insult, and ever ready to avenge oppression and injustice.