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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 object and endeavour of the English in China, have always been to carry on a pacific and amicable intercourse, but their anxiety to do so has on several occasions been frustrated. The benevolent disposition of the Great Emperor of China has induced him to state his desire to treat remote foreigners, with indulgence, and consideration but the Imperial benevolence of mind has on several occasions in past years been opposed by subordinate officers of his Government. Foreigners trading at Canton, have been heavily taxed and oppressed, and Commerce has been greatly impeded by the exactions to which it has been exposed. Natives have repeatedly been heavily fined and punished, sometimes cruelly tortured, and put to death, for alleged treasonable connection, with the English, whose only object was to conduct a Commercial Intercourse in tranquillity, and to obey the Imperial Laws. In addition to the Government duties, large sums of money have been forced from Native Merchants, and bribes have been received by inferior officers. Both Natives and Foreigners have been subject to these oppressions. The Imperial ear is too remote that [not] even the echo of such things should be heard, for they are often done in darkness and silence, but the great and enlarged mind of the Emperor, can never appraise such acts on the part of his Servants.
Printed placards have even been affixed to the walls of Public Buildings traducing the foreign character, disseminating falsehood and encouraging low and degraded Natives to insult Strangers who resort to China; Affrays and Riots, have frequently in consequence taken place; the public peace has been disturbed, and Commercial Intercourse interrupted. How much are the Police Officers to blame, who do not put an end to such improper and unjust proceedings.
English Sailors are often rude in manner, but kind in disposition. They cannot bear insult, hence Riots take place, wounds are inflicted and death is sometimes the consequence. On board English Ships that resort to China, strict discipline is preserved, and the men are immediately punished if they commit violent acts towards Natives or others, but the discipline is of little avail, if low Natives are encouraged by Law Officers to insult and attack them. The Laws of England make no distinction of persons, and an Englishman is as severely punished for an act of violence towards a Chinese, as he is for one towards a fellow Country man.
The manners and Customs of all Nations are different; With just allowance made for such difference, why should not Chinese and Englishmen live together on terms of friendly cordiality. The commands of the Sovereign of England to his Subjects are, wherever they go in the World, to endeavour to maintain an amicable and pacific intercourse, with the people of the Country, but never to be forgetful of their national name or honour. When Chinese Subjects arrive in England, or in any other part of the English Dominions, they live under the protection of the Laws, which are equally administered to them with the Natives of the Country. Their wrongs and injuries are all equally addressed.
Instead then of being encouraged to acts of enmity, towards each other, why should not Chinese and English strive together, which should most excel in acts of beneficence and kindness. In many instances, Natives of China, who have been found shipwrecked on barren Islands in the middle of the boisterous ocean, have been saved by the Crews of English Vessels, unfortunate men who might otherwise have perished in want and misery. British Sailors have long been distinguished for such acts of humanity and are taught to glory in them, more than even in deeds of war. Yet these are the persons, whom the Natives of China, are sometimes told by designing men, to insult and despise. The people of China are highly intelligent, industrious, and prosperous, but they are not the only people in the World who are so. Ignorant men have sometimes foolishly taught, that all that is good is centred in China, but that the rest of the Earth is worthless. How vain and childish is the man who reasons thus. If he had visited other Countries he would have discovered, that Heaven, had in its bounty and mercy, bestowed manifold blessings, on many other regions of the Earth. In England, the people live in tranquillity, their persons and property are protected by the Laws, Their Religion inculcates peace upon Earth, and good will towards all men, they have arrived at a wonderful state of improvement in arts and science, and in the cultivation of all those means, which serve to civilize mankind. They are feared in times of war, and honoured in times of peace. There is no Country, with which it is more the interest of China to remain on terms of friendly intercourse than England. It carries on a great and lucrative commerce with this Empire, and the confines of its Indian Dominions, almost border upon those of China. One river which rises in the province of Yunan, flows through a portion of the British Territory.
It is much to the honor of Chinese Merchants, that they are strict and accurate in their Commercial Dealings, and in some instances have shewn acts of much liberality to Foreigners. The pride of a British Merchant is to be just and liberal in his Dealings. The high name and reputation of the English East India Company in China has long been established. The promise of its Servants is as good as money accurately weighed, and its faith pledged in any mercantile transaction, has never been broken. Let the people of China think profoundly upon these things, and not treat lightly persons of this stamp and character. Let the officers of Govt in accordance with the decrees of the benevolent Emperor of China, treat foreigners with the respect and consideration to which they are entitled. Then indeed will there be peace, union, and harmony between the Native and British Community in China.
A friend to China and to England, whose anxious desire is the happiness of his fellowmen, traces with a feeble pen this hasty and imperfect sketch.