CHAPTER XIX. THE SECOND FOREIGN WAR
The question of the nationality of the "Arrow" was complicated by the fact that its registry had expired ten days before its seizure. The master explained that this omission was due to the vessel having been at sea, and that it was to have been rectified as soon as he returned to Hongkong. As Lord Clarendon pointed out, this fact was not merely unknown to the Chinese, but it was also "a matter of British regulation which would not justify seizure by the Chinese. No British lorcha would be safe if her crew were liable to seizure on these grounds." The history of the lorcha "Arrow" was officially proved to be as follows: "The 'Arrow' was heretofore employed in trading on the coast, and while so employed was taken by pirates. By them she was fitted out and employed on the Canton River during the disturbances between the imperialists and the insurgents. While on this service she was captured by the braves of one of the loyalist associations organized by the mandarins for the support of the government. By this association she was publicly sold, and was purchased by a Chin-chew Hong, a respectable firm at Canton, which also laid out a considerable sum in repairing her and otherwise fitting her out. She arrived at Hongkong about the month of June, 1855, at which time a treaty was on foot (which ended in a bargain) between Fong Aming, Messrs. T. Burd &Co.'s comprador, and Lei-yeong-heen, one of the partners in the Chin- chew Hong, for the purchase of the lorcha by the former. Shortly after the arrival of the vessel at Hongkong she was claimed by one Quantai, of Macao, who asserted that she had been his property before she was seized by the pirates. Of course, the then owner disputed his claim; upon which he commenced a suit in the Vice-Admiralty Court. After a short time, by consent of the parties, the question was referred to arbitration, but the arbitrators could not agree and an umpire was appointed, who awarded that the ownership of the lorcha should continue undisturbed. The ownership of the vessel was then transferred to Fong Aming, and in his name she is registered. These are the simple facts connected with the purchase of the lorcha by a resident of the colony at Hongkong and her registry as a British vessel, and it is from these facts that the Imperial Commissioner Yeh has arrived at an erroneous conclusion as to the ownership of the boat." As the first step toward obtaining the necessary reparation, a junk, which was supposed to be an imperial war vessel, was seized as a hostage, and Mr. Parkes addressed another letter to Yeh reminding him that "the matter which has compelled this menace still remains unsettled."
Had there been that convenient mode of communication between the governor of Hongkong and the Chinese officials at Canton which was provided for by the Nankin Treaty and the Keying Convention, the "Arrow" complication would, in all probability, never have arisen, and it is also scarcely less certain that it would not have produced such serious consequences as it did but for the arrogance of Yeh. He even attempted to deny that the "Arrow" carried the English flag, but this was so clearly proved to be a fact by both English and Chinese witnesses that it ceased to hold a place in the Chinese case. As it was clear that Commissioner Yeh would not give way, and as delay would only encourage him, the admiral on the station, Sir Michael Seymour, received instructions to attack the four forts of the Barrier, and he captured them without loss. Thus, after an interval of fourteen years, was the first blow struck in what may be called the third act of Anglo-Chinese relations, but it would be a mistake to suppose that the "Arrow" case was the sole cause of this appeal to arms. A blue book, bearing the significant title of "Insults to Foreigners," gives a list and narrative of the many outrages and indignities inflicted on Europeans between 1842 and 1856. The evidence contained therein justifies the statement that the position of Europeans in China had again become most unsafe and intolerable. Those who persist in regarding the "Arrow" affair as the only cause of the war may delude themselves into believing that the Chinese were not the most blameworthy parties in the quarrel; but no one who seeks the truth and reads all the evidence will doubt that if there had been no "Arrow" case there would still have been a rupture between the two countries. The Chinese officials, headed by Yeh, had fully persuaded themselves that, as the English had put up with so much, and had acquiesced in the continued closing of the gates of Canton, they were not likely to make the "Arrow" affair a casus belli. Even the capture of the Barrier forts did not bring home to their minds the gravity of the situation.