CHAPTER XVII. THE FIRST FOREIGN WAR
The ports in addition to Canton to be opened to trade were Shanghai, Ningpo, Amoy and Foochow, but these were not to be opened until a tariff had been drawn up and consular officers appointed. As the installments of the indemnity were paid the troops and fleet were withdrawn, but a garrison was left for some time in Chusan and Kulangsu, the island off Amoy. The attack and massacre of some shipwrecked crews on the coast of Formosa gave the Chinese government an occasion of showing how marked a change had come over its policy. An investigation was at once ordered, the guilty officials were punished, and the emperor declared, "We will not allow that, because the representation came from outside foreigners, it should be carelessly cast aside without investigation. Our own subjects and foreigners, ministers and people, should all alike understand that it is our high desire to act with even-handed and perfect justice." Sir Henry Pottinger's task was only half performed until he had drawn up the tariff and installed consular officers in the new treaty ports. Elepoo was appointed to represent China in the tariff negotiations, and Canton was selected as the most convenient place for discussing the matter. Within two months of the resumption of negotiations they seemed on the point of a satisfactory termination, when the death of Elepoo, the most sincere and straightforward of all the Chinese officials, caused a delay in the matter. Elepoo was a member of the Manchu imperial family, being descended from one of the brothers of Yung Ching, who had been banished by that ruler and reinstated by Keen Lung. That the Pekin government did not wish to make his death an excuse for backing out of the arrangement was shown by the prompt appointment of Keying as his successor. At this stage of the question the opium difficulty again rose up as of the first importance in reference to the settlement of the commercial tariff. The main point was whether opium was to appear in the tariff at all or to be relegated to the category of contraband articles. Sir Henry Pottinger disclaimed all sympathy with the traffic, and was quite willing that it should be declared illicit; but at the same time he stated that the responsibility of putting it down must rest with the Chinese themselves. The Chinese were not willing to accept this responsibility, and said that "if the supervision of the English representatives was not perfect, there will be less or more of smuggling." Keying paid Sir Henry Pottinger a ceremonious visit at Hongkong on the 2eth of June, 1843, and within one month of that day the commercial treaty was signed. Sir Henry issued a public proclamation calling upon British subjects to faithfully conform with its provisions, and stating that he would adopt the most stringent and decided measures against any offending persons. On his side Keying published a notification that "trade at the five treaty ports was open to the men from afar." The only weak point in the commercial treaty was that it contained no reference to opium. Sir Henry Pottinger failed to obtain the assent of the Chinese government to its legalization, and he refused to undertake the responsibility of a preventive service in China, but at the same time he publicly stated that the "traffic in opium was illegal and contraband by the laws and imperial edicts of China." Those who looked further ahead realized that the treaty of Nankin, by leaving unsettled the main point in the controversy and the primary cause of difference, could not be considered a final solution of the problem of foreign intercourse with China. The opium question remained over to again disturb the harmony of our relations.
As has been said before, it would be taking a narrow view of the question to affirm that opium was the principal object at stake during this war. The real point was whether the Chinese government could be allowed the possession of rights which were unrecognized in the law of nations and which rendered the continuance of intercourse with foreigners an impossibility. What China sought to retain was never claimed by any other nation, and could only have been established by extraordinary military power. When people talk, therefore, of the injustice of this war as another instance of the triumph of might over right, they should recollect that China in the first place was wrong in claiming an impossible position in the family of nations. We cannot doubt that if the acts of Commissioner Lin had been condoned the lives of all Europeans would have been at the mercy of a system which recognizes no gradation in crime, which affords many facilities for the manufacture of false evidence, and which inflicts punishment altogether in excess of the fault. It is gratifying to find that many unprejudiced persons declared at the time that the war which resulted in the Nankin treaty was a just one, and so eminent an authority on international law as John Quincy Adams drew up an elaborate treatise to show that "Britain had the righteous cause against China." We may leave the scene of contest and turn from the record of an unequal war with the reflection that the results of the struggle were to be good. However inadequately the work of far-seeing statesmanship may have been performed in 1842, enough was done to make present friendship possible and a better understanding between two great governing peoples a matter of hope and not desponding expectancy.