CHAPTER XIX. THE SECOND FOREIGN WAR
On October 8, 1856, Mr. Parkes reported to Sir John Bowring at Hongkong the particulars of an affair which had occurred on a British-owned lorcha at Canton. The lorcha "Arrow," employed in the iron trade between Canton and the mouth of the river, commanded by an English captain, and flying the English flag, had been boarded by a party of mandarins and their followers while at anchor near the Dutch Folly. The lorcha - a Portuguese name for a fast sailing boat - had been duly registered in the office at Hongkong, and although not entitled at that precise moment to British protection, through the careless neglect to renew the license, this fact was only discovered subsequently, and was not put forward by the Chinese in justification of their action. The gravity of the affair was increased by the fact that the English flag was conspicuously displayed, and that, notwithstanding the remonstrances of the master, it was ostentatiously hauled down. The crew were carried off prisoners with the exception of two men, left at their own request to take charge of the vessel. Mr. Parkes at once sent a letter to Yeh on the subject of this "very grave insult," requesting that the captured crew of the "Arrow" should be returned to that vessel without delay, and that any charges made against them should be then examined into at the English consulate. In his reply Commissioner Yeh justified and upheld the act of his subordinates. Of the twelve men seized, he returned nine, but with regard to the three whom he detained, he declared one to be a criminal, and the others important witnesses. Not merely would he not release them, but he proceeded to justify their apprehension, while he did not condescend to so much as notice the points of the insult to the English flag, and of his having violated treaty obligations. Yeh did not attempt to offer any excuse for the proceedings taken in his name. He asserted certain things as facts which, in his opinion, it was sufficient for him to accept that they should pass current. But the evidence on which they were based was not sufficient to obtain credence in the laxest court of justice; but even if it had been conclusive it would not have justified the removal of the crew from the "Arrow" when the British flag was flying conspicuously at her mast. What, in brief, was the Chinese case? It was that one of the crew had been recognized by a man passing in a boat as one of a band of pirates who had attacked, ill-used, and plundered him several weeks before. He had forthwith gone to the Taotai of Canton, presented a demand for redress, and that officer had at once given the order for the arrest of the offender, with the result described. There is no necessity to impugn the veracity of the Chinaman's story, but it did not justify the breach of "the ex-territorial rights of preliminary consular investigation before trial" granted to all under the protection of the English flag. The plea of delay did not possess any force either, for the man could have been arrested just as well by the English consul as by the mandarins, but it would have involved a damaging admission of European authority in the matter of a Chinese subject, and the mandarins thought there was no necessity to curtail their claim to jurisdiction. Commissioner Yeh did not attempt any excuses, and he even declared that "the 'Arrow' is not a foreign lorcha, and, therefore," he said, "there is no use to enter into any discussion about her."