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The rapid extension of the trade seems at length to have awakened the attention of the court of Pekin to the subject. We doubt, however, notwithstanding what has been alleged to the contrary, whether a sense of the injurious consequences of the use of the drug had much to do in the matter. This, indeed, is a part of the subject as to which there exists a great deal of misapprehension; and we are well assured, that, provided it be not carried to excess, the use of opium is not more injurious than that of wine, brandy, or other stimulants. In truth and reality, the alarm of the Chinese government was not about the health or morals. of its subjects, but about their bullion! They are still haunted by the same visionary fears of being drained of a due supply of gold and silver, that formerly haunted the people of this country. The imports of opium having increased so rapidly as to be no longer balanced by the exports of tea and silk, sycee silver began also to be exported! The court of Pekin could have tolerated what are called the demoralising effects of opium with stoical indiffer. ence, but the exportation of silver was not a thing to be endured.-It is, however, only fair to state, that the Chinese statesmen are not all of the Bexley school; and that some of them appear to have taken an enlightened view of the question, and to have emancipated themselves from the prejudices that still influence a majority of their colleagues. The statesmen in question contended, that the taste for the drug was far too deeply seated and too widely diffused to admit of its effectual prohibition; and they, therefore, proposed that its importation should be legalised, subjecting it, at the same time, to a heavy duty. There cannot be a doubt that this was the proper mode of dealing with the subject. In the end, however, the government of Pekin, influenced by unfounded theories, as to the mischievous effect of the export of the precious metals, came to a different conclusion, and resolved to put a stop to the traffic.
No sooner had this resolution been adopted, than a most extraordinary change appears to have taken place in the conduct of the Chinese authorities; and their usual caution seems to have wholly deserted them. They now became as precipitate and violent as they had previously been slow and circumspect; and resolved at all hazards to attempt forcibly to put down the trade. To accomplish this, all foreigners were, in March, 1839, prohibited from leaving Canton; and compulsory measures were at the same time resorted to for compelling them to deliver up the opium in their possession.
How the affair might have ended, had our countrymen at Canton been left to the exercise of their own judgment in this crisis, it is impossible to say; but we have been assured by those on whose statements we are disposed to rely, that they would most probably have suc ceeded in getting out of it with comparatively little loss. Instead, however, of acting for themselves, they had to act in obedience to the orders of Mr. Elliot, chief superintendent of the British trade in Canton; and he, while under constraint, occasioned by confinement to the factory, and without supplies of food, which was withheld by the Chinese, commanded all the opium belonging to British subjects to be given up to him for delivery to the Chinese authorities; declaring, at the same time, that "failing the surrender of the said opium," the British government should be free "of all measure of responsibility or liability in respect of British-owned opium."
We do not presume to offer any opinion as to the necessity or policy of this proceeding on the part of the superintendent; but, in consequence thereof, and of the unjustifiable proceedings of the Chinese, above 20,000 chests of opium, worth upwards of 2,000,000l. sterling, were delivered up to Mr. Elliot by British subjects, and by him to the Chinese authorities; and the latter, not satisfied with the possession of the opium, which it was their duty to have placed in a state of security till the matters with respect to it should be arranged, immediately proceeded to destroy it! Having succeeded thus far, the Chinese next insisted that the foreign merchants should subscribe a bond, pledging themselves not to import opium into any part of China; or that, if they did, they were to be justly liable to the penalty of death. But this condition being refused, and no arrangement having been come to, Mr. Elliot suspended the trade on the 22d of May; and a collision has since taken place between a British sloop of war and some Chinese junks, when several of the latter were sunk.
Sundry grave questions will, no doubt, arise out of these extraordinary proceedings. That the Chinese have the same right to exclude opium from their empire, that we have to prohibit the importation of beef, or ammunition, or to lay a duty on corn, does not admit of any question. But in endeavouring to suppress a trade that had been carried on under the sanction of the authorities at Canton, all of whom had largely participated in its profits, justice required that notice should have been given to the parties concerned of the intentions of government. It is necessary to bear in mind, that the Chinese were in the habit of frequently issuing proclamations against the importation of opium; but as no attempt was ever made to give the slightest effect to these proclamations, the parties engaged in the trade were naturally led to conclude that such would always be the case. Hence the necessity for a distinct intimation being made, that the laws against the importation of opium were, in future, to be bonâ fide and truly carried into effect, and for fixing some period after which all parties found engaged in the trade would be subject to certain penalties. No valid objection could have been made to such a course of proceeding. The Chinese are clearly entitled to prohibit the
importation of opium; but neither the Chinese nor any other nation are entitied, after having, by a long connivance at and participation in the trade, induced foreigners to import a large amount of valuable property into their territories, to pounce upon and seize such property on pretence of its being contraband! The Chinese are a remarkably clever people; and it is impossible that they should not see that, in this instance, their government has been guilty of the grossest injustice; and that it has rendered itself liable for the full value of the property it has so unwarrantably seized and destroyed.
Suppose the British parliament had, in 1796, passed an act prohibiting the importation of tea; and suppose farther, that the collector of customs and other authorities in Liverpool had paid no attention whatever to this act, but that, from 1796 down to the present day, they had openly countenanced the trade, that it had rapidly increased; and that every year hundreds of Chinese ships laden with tea had arrived in the Mersey, safely unloaded their cargoes, and sailed either with silver or other British produce on board: what, under these circumstances, would the Chinese have said, had the British government suddenly turned round and declared, "You are engaged in an illegal trade;" and without farther intimation have proceeded to seize and destroy all the tea belonging to them in England? Would not the Chinese, the Russians, French, and, in short, the whole world, have declared such an act to be flagrantly unjust? And would not every honest man in England have said that the Chinese had been swindled; and that the government of China did not deserve to be treated with ordinary respect, if it did not endeavour to procure redress for its subjects.
Now, this is precisely the case of England against the Chinese. The morality or immorality of the opium trade is wholly beside the question. Though opium were ten times more injurious than has ever been represented, that would not alter the fact that the trade in it had been openly countenanced by the Chinese authorities for a period of more than forty years; and such being the case, foreigners were certainly entitled to infer that that countenance would not suddenly be withdrawn; and that, at all events, their property would be respected. This, in fact, is not a question about which there is any real room for doubt or difference of opinion. The conduct of the Chinese has been most unwarrantable; and the government of this country has not only a well-founded claim for redress, but is called upon to enforce it by a just regard for the national honour and the interests of the British subjects, whose rights have been so outrageously violated at Canton.
It is laid down by all writers on public law, that it depends wholly on the will of a nation to carry on commerce with another, or not to carry it on, and to regulate the manner in which it shall be carried on. (Vattel, book i. § 8.) But we incline to think that this rule must be interpreted as applying only to such commercial states as recognise the general principles of public or international law. If a state possessed of a rich and extensive territory, and abounding with products suited for the use and accommodation of the people of other countries, insulates itself by its institutions, and adopts a system of policy that is plainly inconsistent with the interests of every other nation, it appears to us that such nation may be justly compelled to adopt a course of policy more consistent with the general well-being of mankind. No doubt, the right of interference, in cases of this sort, is one that should be exercised with extreme caution, and requires strong grounds for its vindication. But that this right does exist, seems sufficiently clear. We admit that a slight degree of inconvenience, experienced from one nation refusing to enter into commercial transactions with another, or from its insisting that these transactions should be carried on in a troublesome and vexatious manner, would not warrant any interference with its internal affairs; but this, like all other questions of the same kind, is one of degree. Should the inconvenience resulting from such anti-social vexatious conduct become very oppressive on others, the parties so oppressed would have as good a right to interfere to enforce a change of conduct, as if the state that has adopted this anti-social offensive policy had openly attacked their territory or their citizens. A state has a perfect right to enact such rules and regulations for its internal government and the conduct of its trade as it pleases, provided they do not exercise any very injurious influence over others. But should such be the case-should the domestic or commercial policy of any particular state involve principles or regulations that trench on the rights or seriously injure the interests of other parties, none can doubt that these others have a right to complain; and, if the injury be of a grave character, and redress be not obtained on complaint being made,—no reasonable doubt can be entertained that the aggrieved party is justified in resorting to force.
These principles appear to us to apply with peculiar force in the case of China. Tea, a peculiar product of that country, has now become a necessary of life in England; and no one can doubt that a most serious injury would be inflicted on the people of Britain, were any considerable impediment thrown in the way of its importation; and as the arbitrary policy of the Chinese government, which is not influenced by the maxims, and is regardless of the forms, that prevail among civilised states, has already interrupted this trade, and constantly exposes it to great dangers, it certainly appears that this is a case for forcible intervention-dignus vindice nodus,—and that we are entitled to demand that the trade should
be placed on a solid footing, that the import and export duties should be rendered intelligible and moderate, and that an end should be put to the extortion and interference of the Chinese authorities.-S.
PAPER. The following is to be read as a conclusion of the article Paper in this edition of the Dictionary.
This measure has, also, in part obviated the injustice done to authors and publishers, by compelling them to pay a duty on the paper used in printing books previously to their pubJication; and, consequently, before it can be known whether the books will sell. When they do not sell, the tax has obviously to be paid out of the capital of the authors or publishers, and the loss arising from an unsuccessful publishing speculation is increased by its amount. (See vol. i., p. 200.) It is true that every duty on paper, how limited soever operates in this way, and is, therefore, objectionable on principle; but the hardship inflicted on an unsuccessful author by the existing paper duty being only half its former amount, is no longer of any very material importance.
As respects revenue, too, the measure promises to be most successful. In 1835, the nett produce of the duties on paper, in the United Kingdom, amounted to 715,743/., of which the duty on stained paper produced 60,1417. The latter duty, as already seen, was totally repealed in 1836, and deducting it, the duty on printing and writing papers, paste-board, &c., in 1835, amounted to 655,6021. Now, the rates on the latter descriptions having been reduced a half, it follows, that had the consumption continued stationary, the duty would now have amounted to 327,8017.; whereas, it amounted, in 1838, to 539,7891., being an increase of 65 per cent., and we understand that the increase last year was still greater. The fair presumption, therefore, is that in a year or two, the consumption of taxed paper will be doubled, and that the revenue will have lost nothing by the reduction. This, in fact, is almost always the case. An oppressive tax on an article in general demand is never effectually reduced, without the revenue being in a very short time benefited by the measure. It may be truly said of taxation,
The only thing to be regretted, is that the pruning knife is seldom vigorously and skilfully applied.-S.
[We give the following Tables, exhibiting the fluctuations in stocks in two of the princi pal markets of the United States during the year 1840.
The following prices of some of the principal stocks sold in the New York market at or near the close of each month in the year 1840 :
United States Bank
Jan. Feb. March April. May. June.
July. Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec.
63 66 65층 64층 123 120 123 124
761 73 72 74 70 73
Bank of America
Dry Dock Bank
Delaware and Hudson Canal
118 118 116 1143 114
Mechanics' Banking Asso.
American Exchange Bank
Bank of Commerce, scrip
North American Trust Co.
43 403 41
102 96 94 94 98
78 80 90 89 *90 76 734 76 791 804 90 92 95 974 944 93 984 98 98 991 991 982 26 26 26 322 28 29 714 684 691 70 69 39 39 45 50 52 931 95 94 93 93 74 76 78 76 76 18 17 24 29 411 36 39 37 404 130 122 125 126 129 129 49 48 50 49 56 55 121 120 1194 116 117 120
781 82 73 76 76
241 242 213 22 24
The Prices of some of the principal Stocks sold in the Philadelphia Market at or near the close of each
41 42 42 463 46
Girard Life and Trust
30 15 25 274 25 22 22 10 30 30 26 27 23 24 26 27 25 32 30 25 23 73 106 106 105 105 105 104 103 104 1034 103 102 1007 100 5 95 93 90 91 91 97 95 974 94 94 94 93 86 9 100 100 101 105 105 103 101 102 101 1 Am. Ed.]
241 241 241
83 87 77
75 78 77