CHAPTER XIV. THE COMMENCEMENT OF EUROPEAN INTERCOURSE
There remains only to summarize the relations with the English, who, early in the seventeenth century, and before the Manchus had established their supremacy, possessed factories at Amoy and on the island of Chusan. But their trade, hampered by official exactions, and also by the jealousy of the Portuguese and Dutch, proved a slow growth; and at Canton, which they soon discovered to be the best and most convenient outlet for the state, they were more hampered than anywhere else, chiefly through the hostile representations of the Portuguese, who bribed the mandarins to exclude all other foreigners. The English merchants, like the Portuguese, believed that the only way to obtain a remedy for their grievances was by approaching the imperial court and obtaining an audience with the emperor; but they were wise in not attempting to send delegates of their own. They saw that if an impression was to be created at Pekin the embassador must come fully accredited by the British government, and not merely as the representative of a body of merchants who were suppliants for commercial privileges. The war with the Goorkhas had made the Chinese authorities acquainted with the fact that the English, who were only humble suitors for trade on the coast, were a great power in India. The knowledge of this fact undoubtedly created a certain amount of curiosity in the mind of Keen Lung, and when he heard that the King of England contemplated sending an embassy to his court he gave every encouragement to the suggestion, and promised it a welcome and honorable reception. Permission was given it to proceed to Pekin, and thus was a commencement made in the long story of diplomatic relations between England and China, which have at length acquired a cordial character. As great importance was attached to this embassy, every care was bestowed on fitting it out in a worthy manner. Colonel Cathcart was selected as the envoy, but died on the eve of his departure, and a successor was found in the person of Lord Macartney, a nobleman of considerable attainments, who had been Governor of Madras two years before. Sir George Staunton, one of the few English sinologues, was appointed secretary, and several interpreters were sought for and obtained, not without difficulty. The presents were many and valuable, chosen with the double object of gratifying the emperor and impressing him with the wealth and magnificence of the English sovereign. In September, 1792 - the same month that witnessed the overthrow of the Goorkhas at Nayakot - the embassy sailed from Portsmouth, but it did not reach the Peiho, on which Pekin is inaccurately said to stand, until the following August.