« AnteriorContinuar »
that his supposed suicide was but another fraud. He had got possession-such was the theory-of a dead body which bore some resemblance to his own form and features; he had palmed this off as his own corpse done to death by poison; and had himself contrived to escape with a large portion of his ill-gotten money. This extraordinary parody and perversion of the plot of Jean Paul Richters's story of “Siebenkas" really found many faithful believers. It is worth mentioning, not as a theory creditable in itself, but as an evidence of the belief that had got abroad as to the character and stratagems of Sadleir. The brother of Sadleir was expelled from the House of Commons; one of his accomplices, who had obtained a government appointment and had embezzled money, contrived to make his escape to the United States; and the Irish Brigade was broken up. It is only just to say that the best representatives of the Irish Catholics and the Irish national party, in and out of Parliament, had never from the first believed in Sadleir and his band, and had made persistent efforts to expose them.
About this time · Mr. Cyrus W. Field, an energetic American merchant, came over to this country to explain to its leading merchants and scientific men a plan he had for constructing an electric telegraph line underneath the Atlantic. Mr. Field had had this idea strongly in his mind for some years, and he made a strenuous effort to impress the English public with a conviction of its practicability. He was received by the merchants of Liverpool on November 12th. 1856, in their Exchange Rooms, and he made a long statement explaining his views, which were listened to with polite curiosity. Mr. Field had, however, a much better reception on the whole than M. de Lesseps, who came to England a few months later to explain his project for constructing a ship canal acros the Isthmus of Suez. The proposal was received with coldness, and more
than coldness, by engineers, capitalists, and politicians. Engineers showed that the canal could not be made, or at least maintained when made; capitalists proved that it never could pay; and politicians were ready to make it plain that such a canal, if made, would be a standing men. ace to English interests. Lord Palmerston, a few days after, frankly admitted that the English government were opposed to the project, because it would tend to the more easy separation of Egypt from Turkey, and set afloat speculations as to a ready access to India. M. de Lesseps himself has given an amusing account of the manner in which Lord Palmerston denounced the scheme in an interview with the projector. Luckily neither Mr. Field nor M. de Lesseps was a person to be lightly discouraged. Great projectors are usually as full of their own ideas as great poets. M. de Lesseps had in the end perhaps more reason to be alarmed at England's sudden appreciation of his scheme than he had in the first instance to.complain of the disapprobation with which her government encouraged it.
The political world seemed to have made up his mind for a season of quiet. Suddenly that happened which always does happen in such a condition of things—a storm broke out. To those who remember the events of that time, three words will explain the nature of the disturbance. “The lorcha Arrow" will bring back the recollection of one of the most curious political convulsions known in this country during our generation. For years after the actual events connected with the lorcha Arrow, the very name of that ominous vessel used to send a shudder through the House of Commons. The words suggested first an impassioned controversy which had left a painful impression on the condition of political parties, and next an effort of futile persistency to open the whole controversy over again, and force it upon the notice of legislators who wished for nothing better than to be allowed to forget it.
In the speech from the throne at the opening of Parliament, on February 3rd, 1857, the following passage occurred: “Her Majesty commands us to inform you that acts of violence, insults to the British flag, and infraction of treaty rights, committed by the local Chinese authorities at Canton, and a pertinacious refusal of redress, have rendered it necessary for her Majesty's officers in China to have iecourse to measures of force to obtain satisfaction.” The acts of violence, the insults to the British flag, and the infraction of treaty rights alleged to have been committed by the Chinese authorities at Canton had for their single victim the lorcha Arrow. The lorcha Arrow was a sma!! boat built on the European model. The word “Lorcha is taken from the Portuguese settlement at Macao at the mouth of the Canton River. It often occurs in treaties with the Chinese authorities. “Every British schooner, cutter, lorcha, etc.," are words that we constantly find in these documents. On October 8th, 1856, a party of Chinese in charge of an officer boarded a boat, called the Arrow, in the Canton River. They took off twelve men on a charge of piracy, leaving two men in charge of the lorcha. The Arrow was declared hy its owners to be a British vessel. Our consul at Canton, Mr. Parkes, demanded from Yeh, the Chinese Governor of Canton, the return of the men, basing his demand upon the ninth article of the Supplemental Treaty of 1843, entered into subsequently to the Treaty of 1842. We need not go deeper into the terms of this treaty than to say that there could be no doubt that it did not give the Chinese authorities any right to seize Chinese offenders, ur supposed offenders, on board an English vessel. It inerely gave them a right to require the surrender of the uffenders at the hands of the English. The Chinese Governor, Yeh, contended, however, that the lorcha was not an English but a Chinese vessel-a Chinese pirate, venturing occasionally for her own purposes to fly the flag of England,
which she had no right whatever to hoist. Under the treaties with China, British vessels were to be subject to consular authority only. The treaty provided amply for the registration of vessels entitled to British protection, for the regular renewal of the registration, and for the conditions under which the registration was to be granted or renewed. The Arrow had somehow obtained a British registration, but it had expired about ten days before the occurrence in the Canton River, and even the British authorities who had been persuaded to grant the registration were not certain whether, with the knowledge they subsequently obtained, it could legally be renewed. We believe it may be plainly stated at once, as a matter of fact, that the Arrow was not an English vessel, but only a Chinese vessel which had obtained by false pretences the temporary possession of a British flag. Mr. Consul Parkes, however, was fussy, and he demanded the instant restoration of the captured men, and he sent off to our Plenipotentiary at Hong Kong, Sii John Bowring, for authority and assistance in the business.
Sir John Bowring was a man of considerable ability. At one time he seemed to be a candidate for something like fame. He was the political pupil and the literary executor of Jeremy Bentham, and for some years was editor of the Westminster Review. He had a very large and varied, although not profound or scholarly, knowledge of Europeai. and Asiatic languages (there was not much scientific study of languages in his early days), he had travelled a great deal, and had sat in Parliament for some years. He understood political economy, and had a good knowledge of trade and commerce; and in those days a literary man who knew anything about trade and commerce was thought a personi of almost miraculous versality. Bowring had many friends and admirers, and he set up early for a sort of great man. He was full of self-conceit, and without any very clear idea of political principles on the large scale. Nothing in all his
previous habits of life, nothing in the associations and friendships by which he had long been surrounded, nothing in his studies or his writings warranted any one in expecting that when placed in a responsible position in China at a moment of great crisis, he would have taken on him to act the part which aroused such a controversy. It would seem as if his eager self-conceit would not allow him to resist the temptation to display himself on the field of political action as a great English plenipotentiary, a master-spirit of the order of Clive or Warren Hastings, bidding England be of good cheer, and compelling inferior races to grovel in the dust before her. Bowring knew China as well as it was then likely that an Englishman could know the “huge mummy empire by the hands of custom wrapped in swathing bands." He had been consul for some years at Canton, and he had held the post of chief superintendent of trade there. He sent to the Chinese authorities, and demanded the surrender of all the men taken from the Arrow. Not merely did he demand the surrender of the men, but he insisted that an apology should be offered for their arrest, and a formal pledge given by the Chinese authorities that no such act should ever be committed again. If this were not done within forty-eight hours naval operations were to be begun against the Chinese. This sort of demand was less like that of a dignified English official, conscious of the justice of his cause and the strength of his country, than like the demeanor of Ancient Pistol formulating his terms to the fallen Frenchman on the battle-field : “ I'll fer him, and firk him, and ferret him-discuss the same in French unto him." Sir John Bowring called out to the Chinese Governor, Yeh, that he would fer him, and firk him, and ferret him, and bade the same be discussed in Chinese unto him. Yeh sent back all the men, saying in effect that he did so to avoid the ferring, and firking, and ferreting, and he even undertook to promise that for the future great care