CHAPTER XV. THE DECLINE OF THE MANCHUS

The favorable opinion which his father had held of Kiaking does not seem to have been shared by all his ministers. The most prominent of them all, Hokwan, who held to Keen Lung the relation that Wolsey held to Henry the Eighth, soon fell under the displeasure of the new emperor, and was called upon to account for his charge of the finances. The favor and the age of Keen Lung left Hokwan absolutely without control, and the minister turned his opportunities to such account that he amassed a private fortune of eighty million taels, or more than one hundred and twenty-five million dollars. He was indicted for peculation shortly after the death of Keen Lung, and, without friends, he succumbed to the attack of his many enemies incited to attack him by the greed of Kiaking. But the amount of his peculations amply justified his punishment, and Kiaking in signing his death warrant could not be accused of harshness or injustice. The execution of Hokwan restored some of his ill-gotten wealth to the state, and served as a warning to other officials; but as none could hope to enjoy his opportunities, it did not act as a serious deterrent upon the mass of the Chinese civil service. If arraigned, they might have justified their conduct by the example of their sovereign, who, instead of devoting the millions of Hokwan to the necessities of the state, employed them on his own pleasure, and in a lavish palace expenditure.

The Portuguese were the tenants, as has previously been stated, of Macao, for which they paid an annual rent to the Chinese; but the nature of their tenure was not understood in Europe, where Macao was considered a Portuguese possession. During the progress of the great European struggle, the French, as part of one of their latest schemes for regaining their position in the East, conceived the idea of taking possession of Macao; but while they were contemplating the enterprise, an English squadron had accomplished it, and during the year 1802 Macao was garrisoned by an English force. The Treaty of Amiens provided for its restoration to Portugal, and the incident closed, chiefly because the period of occupation was brief, without the Chinese being drawn into the matter, or without the true nature of the Portuguese hold on Macao being explained. The exigencies of war unfortunately compelled the re-occupation of Macao six years later, when the indignation of the Chinese authorities at the violation of their territory fully revealed itself. Peremptory orders were sent to the Canton authorities from Pekin to expel the foreigners at all costs. The government of India was responsible for what was a distinct blunder in our political relations with China. In 1808, when alarm at Napoleon's schemes was at its height, it sent Admiral Drury and a considerable naval force to occupy Macao. The Chinese at once protested, withheld supplies, refused to hold any intercourse with that commander, and threatened the English merchants at Lintin with the complete suspension of the trade. In his letter of rebuke the chief mandarin at Canton declared that, "as long as there remained a single soldier at Macao," he would not allow any trade to be carried on, and threatened to "block up the entrance to Macao, cut off your provisions, and send an army to surround you, when repentance would be too late." The English merchants were in favor of compliance with the Chinese demands, but Admiral Drury held a very exalted opinion of his own power and a corresponding contempt for the Chinese. He declared that, as "there was nothing in his instructions to prevent his going to war with the Emperor of China," he would bring the Canton officials to reason by force. He accordingly assembled all his available forces, and proceeded up the river at the head of a strong squadron of boats with the avowed intention of forcing his way up to the provincial capital. On their side the Chinese made every preparation to defend the passage, and they blocked the navigation of the river with a double line of junks, while the Bogue forts were manned by all the troops of the province. When Admiral Drury came in sight of these defenses, which must have appeared formidable to him, he hesitated, and instead of delivering his attack he sent a letter requesting an interview with the mandarin, again threatening to force his way up to Canton. But the Chinese had by this time taken the measure of the English commander, and they did not even condescend to send him a reply; when Admiral Drury, submitting to their insult, hastily beat a retreat. On several subsequent occasions he renewed his threats, and even sailed up the Bogue, but always retreated without firing a shot. It is not surprising that the Chinese were inflated with pride and confidence by the pusillanimous conduct of the English officer, or that they should erect a pagoda at Canton in honor of the defeat of the English fleet. After these inglorious incidents Admiral Drury evacuated Macao and sailed for India, leaving the English merchants to extricate themselves as well as they could from the embarrassing situation in which his hasty and blundering action had placed them. If the officials at Canton had not been as anxious for their own selfish ends that the trade should go on as the foreign merchants themselves, there is no doubt that the views of the ultra school at Pekin, who wished all intercourse with foreigners interdicted, would have prevailed. But the Hoppo and his associates were the real friends of the foreigner, and opened the back door to foreign commerce at the very moment that they were signing edicts denouncing it as a national evil and misfortune.