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English.* But the truth is that, on every disturbance, and sometimes on the most frivolous pretexts, a total stop is put to the landing or shipping of cargoes; and, notwithstanding the bold assertions of the merchants of Bristol and Glasgow, we are quite sure, to make use of an emphatical expression, applied by Mr. Hastings to India, our existence in China has frequently vibrated on the edge of perdition, and been at all times suspended by a thread so fine that the touch of chance might break it.' Another consideration ought to operate most powerfully. The most inveterate enemies which this country has in the East, are its good allies the Portugueze at Macao, and the Portugueze missionaries at Pekin. With such an authentic document in their hands as an act of parliament throwing open the trade to China, there is no knowing to what extent they would be enabled to carry their misrepresentations and to arouse the jealousy of the Chinese. It was by instruments of this kind, they might probably say, that India was conquered, and by the same instruments the English hope to subdue China.
The inclination felt by the provincial government of Canton to transfer to the Americans the commerce of the English East India Company, may appear to be at variance with the alleged indifference or dislike to a foreign intercourse. But, if it be kept in mind that, while the proud and arrogant court of Pekin is promulgating its maxims of contempt for all foreign commerce, the city of Canton has, by means of it, more than doubled its former population, and risen to a state of prosperity and wealth, far beyond every other in the empire, not even the capital excepted-that the English commerce alone has caused for many years past, not less than five millions sterling annually to circulate among the inhabitants, which, allowing for the different value of money, is equivalent to at least fifteen millions in England—that, though a few individuals nominally monopolize this commerce, the benefits of it are actually no less participated by the people of Canton, than those of the East India Company's monopoly are by the people of London, that a weak government dreads the discontent of its distant provinces; and that a state of tranquillity is, in its estimation, synonimous with prosperity—that all the provincial governments of this extended empire are corrupt in proportion to their distance from the court; and, that most of its officers at Canton are known to participate in the extortions wrung from the licensed merchants-these, and other considerations that might be mentioned, are, in our minds,
* An English gentleman who, for the last five years, has been at Canton with a view of getting into the interior, said one day to the chief Hong merchant, why do you prevent me? I am no missionary.'~ True,' replied the Hong merchant; but you are worse--you are an Englishman.'
more than sufficient to explain the unwillingness of all parties at Canton to part with foreign commerce.
When the Americans were first admitted to a participation of the China trade, they began cautiously, and felt their way gradually; they almost imperceptibly filled up those vacancies which had been occasioned by the disappearance of the French, the Dutch, the Danish and Swedish factories. To the orderly English factory, and to the idea that they were an inferior sort of Englishmen, and therefore named by the Chinese second-chop Englishmen, they owed much for their introduction to a trade which, on a recent occasion, was rigorously forbidden to the Russians. In their first attempts every man in the ship bad a share in the adventure, which was a pledge for the good conduct of the ship's company; and in case of disobedient or disorderly conduct, the master held out the common threat of sending them, as British subjects serving under a fictitious character, to the first British man of war they should fall in with. British seamen, as brave as lions, are as unmanageable as those noble animals. They carry with them to every part of the globe that love of liberty, and proud spirit of independence, which, being unknown to, cannot be duly appreciated by, other nations. Such a spirit is as ill-suited to the municipal restrictions of a Chinese port, as to the timidity of Chinese men. With all the care and circumspection of the Company's servants, it is not possible to keep them always in order. This difference in the disposition and habits of British seamen, so remarkable from all others, is known unfavourably to the Chinese; and such is their natural timidity, that the alarm at the crowds of British shipping, which, were the trade thrown open, would in the first instance swarm to Canton, some with the hope of redeeming a bad speculation in India, and others of completing an assorted cargo, would, in all probability, induce them to forego the advantages which they derive from foreign commerce altogether, and close that port, like all the rest, against the admission of strangers. It may be observed that the private ships which carry cotton from Bombay to China, being immediately subject to the Company's regulations at Canton, and manned chiefly with Lascars, create no alarm.
As to the success which has attended the American traffic, it has not been so complete as the Glasgow merchants appear to imagine. It might have been less so had the Company's servants acted with more circumspection, than actually to have furnished their rivals with the means of extending their trade. The case stands thus. Of late years the cotton sent from Bombay, and the woollens and metals from England, have more than paid for the exports from China : the supercargoes, having no immediate employment for the annual balances in our favour, paid in specie into their treasury
at Canton, occasionally advanced it to the Hong merchants, on an understanding, that it was done to enable them to purchase teas for the succeeding season on account of the Company, and that an equitable deduction was to be made in the price of them, in ccnsideration of the money so advanced--but as Chinese morality is not of the most scrupulous cast, this money was diverted from its purpose, and either actually lent to the Americans at an advanced rate of interest, or applied to the purchase of investments on their account--thus affording them the means of trading largely on British capital, improvidently furnished, and improperly appropriated. This successful traffic, however, was nearly at an end before the American war. The Chinese had discovered, to their cost, that American integrity was preity much of the same stamp with their own. The bills given to the Hong merchants were räfused payment, in
consequence of which some of them have become insolvent, and the national character of America has descended in China, from the second to the ihird chop.
These transactions may serve to explain the cheapness of American teas, on which so much stress has been laid. Another reason for this cheapness is their great interiority in point of quality, The Company's supercargoes have the complete preemption of all the teas brought down to Cavton. They have an inspector on the spot, well versed in ascertaining their qualities. The Company has also its inspector in London; and such teas as either do not answer the sample, or are damaged and unfit for the English market, are sent back to China, or taken down to the Nore and sunk. The quantity also brought into the market is so well regulated that, with an abundant supply, it is never overstocked-deep speculation is thus prerented, and the public served with sound and fresh teas; we say fresh, because it is not with teas as with wines; the former, after a couple of years, instead of improving their flavour, begin to part with it.
All that we have heard then with regard to the cheapness of teas in America, amounts merely to this--that they purchased more than they have paid for, and more than the consumption of that country demanded ;--that they bought up the refuse of the China market, teas that were unsound, and of inferior quality, and consequently of inferior price ; spent tea-leaves dried over again, which the Chinese have the insolence to avow to be 'good enough for second-chop Englishmen:'* and the same thing must happen to the private adventurers from England, if the trade were thrown open. We should have bad teas in abundance for a year or two at reduced
* Barrow's Travels in China.
prices: but one of two things would soon take place; either the steady competition of the Company would ruin private adventurers, or the speculations of these, hy creating an uncertainty of the demand at bome, now precisely regulated, would check the importation on the part of the Company. The evil in either case would be more serious than on the first blush might be supposed. We know not, indeed, that the privation of any one article, excepting that of bread corn, would be more severely felt by the nation at large than that of tea, which is the greatest and most innocent of luxuries to many, and a necessary of life to most descriptions of men. To the
poor it is a comfort, to the sick a cordial. It is equally acceptable to the rough seaman, the harassed soldier, and the labouring peasant. It invigorates the weak, refreshes the weary, promotes social intercourse, and exhilarates the spirits without producing intemperance, to which if it gives any encouragement, it is from the quality it possesses of mitigating its bad effects.
But if the supply of good sound tea be a national concern, the revenue paid by it into the Exchequer is a political consideration of no less moment. The whole scope of British commerce has no one article that can be brought in competition with this, either as to the amount, or the unexceptionable nature, of the duties levied upon it. Their amount approaches very nearly to four millions sterling annually; they are collected without risk, trouble or expense, and without the assistance of that legion of custom-house officers,' which, indeed, if as numerous, expert and ravenous, as the douaniers of Buonaparte, could not, with all their diligence and all their rapacity, prevent the smuggling of an article of such easy conveyance, in the remote parts of England, Scotland and Ireland, were the trade to China thrown open. We know instances of whole cargoes of tea and India goods having been smuggled through the long and intricate navigation of St. George's channel, and successfully landed at Liverpool; how much more easy then would it be to tranship at sea, and carry off on shore, the portable boxes of tea and bales of muslin; which is not the case, as some of the petitioners pretend, with regard to the ponderous puncheons of rum and hogsheads of sugar.
A recurrence to the effects of the act of 1784, known by the name of the Commutation Act, may be of use on the present occasion. In consequence of this act the annual average sales of tea at the India House rose, in one year, from six to eighteen millions of pounds, and have now advanced to twenty-five millions. The duties were then but 50 per cent. ad valorem, which that act reduced to £12 10s. causing a defalcation in the revenue of £600,000, in order to suppress smuggling, and, which was perhaps more im
portant, to prevent the country from being poisoned with a composition of ash, hawthorn and jessamine leaves, mixed up with sheep's dung. This execrable mixture, chiefly carried on in Jersey and Guernsey, was purchased with so much more avidity on account of its being sold as smuggled tea, just as French gloves made in England, and Indian shawls manufactured of flock silk in Spittlefields, are still eagerly bought up by the ladies. The duties have been raised since that time, to nearly 100 per cent.; and if smuggling was once let in to the same extent, the revenue would suffer a defalcation not much short of three millions annually. The temptations would be too powerful, the means too easy, to be resisted, were all ships permitted to carry teas. Highly as we respect' the wealthy and honourable British merchant, we cannot agree with some of the petitioners, that character alone is a sufficient guarantee against illicit trade. Cheating the revenue is not generally considered as a very heinous offence. We might indeed refer to the East India Company's own records to prove to what lengths temptations of large profit will sometimes lead the honourable British merchant from the straight line of his duty,
In stating our opinion, that the China trade should remain exclusively in the hands of the East India Company, we think, at the same time, that it would be right to compel them to extend their capital so far as to occupy that part of the trade of Canton lately enjoyed by the Americans, instead of drawing a balance in specie from the Chinese, otherwise we see not on what grounds they can object to the surplus teas being purchased by individuals at Batavia or any of the eastern islands to which the Chinese junks will most assuredly carry them; nor can they consistently refuse the privilege of supplying India, Africa, South America, and the West India islands with China goods in general. Such a trade would not interfere with the British market, in which a preference will always be insured for the Company's goods, because they are of the best quality, and furnished at a fair and reasonable price. Their trade to China is well conducted. They have here no cumbrous and expensive establishments. Their servants have no large salaries, no snug retirements, no palaces to build, no contracts to give away, They divide among them a small per centage on the sale amount of the outward and homeward cargoes; and it is therefore their interest that both should be as great in quantity, and as good in quality as possible. Fortunate would it be for the Company if such a system could be adopted in India, where, as merchants, they must, by their own account, soon become bankrupts, were it not for the large profits of the China trade. Whether individuals could carry on this trade with profit to themselves or advantage to the public,