« AnteriorContinuar »
"On the deadly poison Opium.
66 Opium is a poisonous drug, which comes from beyond sea. When asked what are the good qualities produced by it, it is answered, it raises the spirits, so as to be insensible to weariness;' therefore it is that so many of us Chinese have constantly fallen into its bewitching snare. At first it is begun to be used, merely from a wish to follow the fashion of the day; afterwards, when its poisonous influences have pervaded the system, continual renovation is required; its unhappy victim sleeps like a corpse, and grows lean and meagre like a ghost; this is the manner in which it insidiously carries on its attacks against human life! Moreover, it is a very expensive article, the price of it is high, it cannot be obtained except by giving for it its weight of silver; at first it dissipates a man's substance; finally it utterly empties his house: of all the calamities ever visited upon mankind, none in magnitude can be compared to this! I say that it is ten times more fatal than arsenic! For the wretch who betakes himself to this poison has commonly lost the respect of his fellow-men, his affairs cannot be retrieved, he is without resource, so he drains the fatal cup and expires! But he who takes delight in smoking opium, receives one calamity on the back of another in deadly succession. I have been asked to give my sentiments on the subject, for the warning of the people against its snare, and they are as follows:The opium-smoker exposes himself—
"In the first place, to have his animal spirits quickly and completely destroyed. When he at first commences the smoking of opium, he feels his spirits wonderfully elevated; but he ought to know that his animal spirits take not their rise externally but internally, and that he is merely using unnatural means to raise them above
their natural level. compare it to a lamp which you are continually trimming; and reason tells us that if we do so, the oil will soon be burned out, and the lamp speedily extinguished. Thus, then, young people, who delight in opium, must die prematurely; they cannot leave posterity behind them; and their wives, fathers, and mothers, must be left exposed to cold and want. Middle-aged and old people, who smoke opium, must shorten the period of existence that nature would otherwise have allotted them-a circumstance which truly calls forth our compassion.
"In the second place, to have his profession or lawful calling go to wreck and ruin. He who is in authority and smokes opium, cannot have time to attend to his public business himself, however important it may be; the merchant who smokes
it, delays and loses the opportunity of making money, and all his affairs get in arrear. For losing one's time and for dissipating one's estate, never was there a drug so fatal as this!
"In the third place, to have his own flesh and blood waste away before his eyes! If a robust man smokes it, his beef insensibly falls from him, and his skin hangs about him like a bag. If a delicate person smokes it, his face becomes black as charcoal, his bones lean as laths: those who see him know well that he must speedily take up his abode in the churchyard.
"In the fourth place, to impoverish himself. If a rich person smokes it, his estate must soon be spent. To smoke opium, it is necessary for two persons to lie beside each other on the couch there they puff and chat away, and thus their enjoyment is at the full. Day by day they spend several pieces of silver in buying this hateful drug; they invite friends and halloo to comrades who are birds of a feather; their money melts away very fast; and do you, reader, say that this state of matters can last long?
"In the fifth place, to have his appearance changed to an aspect most hideous to behold! He who smokes this drug for a length of time, feels a constant loathing and laziness; he cares not for his meals, and finds difficulty in responding to the common courtesies of life. When the period for renovating his system with a fresh dose of the poison comes round, he cannot desist from taking hold of his opium pipe; rheum and snot flow apace-his whole frame seems withered and rotten, and the by-standers, on seeing him look so funny, cannot refrain from shouts of laughter!
"In the sixth place, to have reports spread abroad unfavourable to his good name. If a man has been long in the habit of smoking opium, his wife naturally follows the bad example; if they smoke to excess, the night is turned into day, and no distinction made between the outer and inner apartments; out of this state of matters may spring a great many scandalous occurrences that we dare do no more than hint at; truly, then, it may be said that such a state of things is much to be regretted.
"In the seventh place, to have his secrets blazed abroad; among opiumsmokers, without distinguishing between the noble and the base-they all lie upon the same couch and puff away. While in this state (in vino veritas) they talk about whatever is uppermost in their minds without any reserve. Truly does the proverb say, if a man speak too much, some of his words must come amiss; if an honourable man hear him it may perhaps be no great
matter, but if a mean man hear him, it is hard to secure that he wont suffer for it afterwards!
"In the eighth place, to be involved in the net of the law. Whether he be buying it or smoking it, should he meet with any base blackguards, these make use of it as a pretext to squeeze him, or extort his money. Should the affair get wind, he will then be brought up before the mandarins for trial and punishment, when he who opens a shop for the sale of opium will be strangled, and he who smokes it will be transported. And mayhap you would like to make a trial of the laws in your own persons, would you?
"In the ninth place, to have the poison enter his very marrow and vitals! He who has been in the habit of smoking it long, has his viscera and glands full of hairy worms or insects; these send up their poisonous breaths and attack the intestines,-the stomach and bowels are wounded in consequence, and Loo Peen himself (the Chinese Esculapius) could do nothing in his behalf! Look now at those short-sighted people who wish to put an end to their existence! They mix up a little opium in its raw state, and the moment they swallow it, their bowels burst, the blood gushes out from their seven orifices, their whole body becomes livid and putrid, and they die! There is no medicine known that can cure the effects of
this deadly poison. I myself, while travelling along the banks of Yang-tsze-keang, saw a fellow who was an opium-smoker. The time of renovation came round, and he was short of the drug; so, having no means to satisfy the (horseleech-like) craving, he sought a way to destroy himself. He caught up by mistake a cup of chainam oil, (imagining it to be poison,) and drank it off; when he was seized with an unceasing vomiting, and in the end he spewed up a whole heap of these insects!Their heads were red and variegated, their whole body was covered with hair, they were upwards of an inch in length, and when they were spewed upon the ground they kept wambling about, to the great fear and astonishment of the spectators!!
"In the tenth place, to lose his life, (by external causes induced by this vice.) The poor man who smokes it, must soon pawn every article he has in his house-when he must sit down and cross his hands in despair! Being now perfectly out at elbows, and being unable to get over the renovating period, the infallible consequence is, that he will be led to sell or pawn his wife and children!! I, with my own eyes, saw this in the case of a person surnamed Chin-a native of the province of Ganhwny. He had no sons, so he bought a concubine, whom he managed to get with
child. Afterwards his purse became quite empty through opium-smoking, his vitals were being gnawed for want of renovation, he could not get over it at all; so, having no other way of satisfying the disease, he took his pregnant concubine and sold her for several tens of taels! When this money was all spent, he went (like another Judas) and hanged himself! and is there any thing more lamentable than this?
"Now, in reference to the ten foregoing observations made upon the evils result、 ing from opium, every one knows distinctly that they are the consequences to which opium-smoking must inevitably lead. If the depraved hear me, and still will not awake from their depravity, there is nothing in this that a man may feel astonished or offended at. But I sincerely pity those refined and talented men, who have been gradually falling into its bewitching snare, which threatens to lead them to poverty, and afterwards an untimely end! If ye hear me, and yet refuse to leave off the evil habit, is not this indeed to be pitied? With a sincere feeling of compassion for those unhappy victims who have, under a wrong impression of its qualities, commenced opiumsmoking, and gone on till they require the renovating drug, who repent of their folly, but who cannot get rid of their bane, I, looking up to the goodness of Mercy, and feeling anxious like her to do something in behalf of the human race, have taken a secret prescription of wonderful efficacy in curing the said evil habit of opium-smoking, and had it engraved and printed in order that it be disseminated over the whole empire. Hoping that it may serve as pointing out the ford or ferry to the foolish man, I have had it annexed to this same document."
With all its ingenuity, and even unquestionable truths in some degree, there is no more here than can be urged against ardent spirits or tobacco taken in excess. Accum acquaints us, if he has not proved to us, that poison lurks in every dish, and death in every bowl; and the same alarming doctrine was still, in the Brunonian philosophy, patronised once by a higher authority once so much in vogue on the Continent. If we mistake not, Mr Brotherton, the member for Salford, who is not a fellow of the "Beefsteak Club," although accustomed to officiate at what is vulgarly and derisively called a beefsteak chapel, teaches that flesh-meat is an abomination to health and morals, and vegetable sustenance the only salvation for both.
The poppy, after all, is extensively cultivated, and opium prepared in
several of the Chinese provinces, and especially in Fukheen, Kwantung, Chekeang, Shantung, Yunnan, Kweichow, &c.; in proof of which various representations to the Government might be quoted, and especially the most recent one of a censor named Shaon Chinghwick. But it does not appear that the ire of the Celestial Emperor was moved, or his tender cares extended to root out the culture, and extirpate dealers and consumers notwithstanding; but the reverse.
But whether the prevalent use of opium be noxious or not-as no one will be found to deny that it is, in excess or habitual indulgence-that is not the matter in debate. Nor will any one question the right of the Chinese Government to thunder its anathemas against the introduction of opium any more than of cottons or woollens, if it so please; ay, and to carry out its interdict to the extremity of the recognised laws by which all nations are bound. Smugglers de.. tected in the act of breach of the law, were rightfully amenable to all its severities, as those on our own coasts or on shore, when discovered clandestinely engaged in the landing or sale of articles subject to the payment of heavy duties. But is it to be tolerated that on suspicion, even on grounds of suspicion so probable as to amount almost to certainty, such as may be granted to exist, the Chinese commissioner was entitled to demand the unreserved surrender of property, of opium, on board vessels distant one hundred miles from the seat of his authority-on the high sea, beyond his jurisdiction-and so protected that the whole naval force of China could not have seized it? Is it to be endured that a body of British merchants on shore, following their peaceful pursuits, and reposing under the safeguard no less of the laws of a friendly and unoffended state, than of those international laws which are absolute upon all states; that the Superintendent, a high officer, representing the person of the Sovereign and the majesty of the British empire, should be held in custody, outraged, maltreated, and threatened with execution like the vilest of felons, to extort from them the surrender of property beyond the control and out of the reach of their treacherous oppressors? Of property infringing no law, for it was neither on the coast nor in the act of being smuggled; and of
which, if destined to be smuggled, the Chinese and Chinese officials themselves would have been the actual smugglers. If such be law, be justice, or equity, with how much more show of all and each might we seize, incarcerate in Newgate, and heap the most cruel and cowardly indignities upon French and Dutch ambassadors, with all their resident countrymen, on the well-grounded plea that French lace, silks, brandies, and Dutch hollands, were notoriously smuggled; and there to hold them in durance vile, until every craft and lugger known or suspected to be in the Channel with contraband articles on board, were surrendered without reserve? apology put forth on behalf of High Commissioner Lin, that in the demand and seizure of the opium he was acting according to the letter of Chinese law, and unknowing of the infraction of public law or private rights, will not hold, and is disposed of by the fact, that "the Chinese themselves knew they had no right to seize it; that they were conscious of wrong and injustice in the matter, is proved by their subsequent offer of a paltry remuneration of five or six pounds of tea for each chest surrendered." Here we have meanness and insolence in aggravation of injury. Should we suffer injustice at the hands of the Spaniards, when, as every body knows, and the fact is as glaring as the sun at noonday, five-sixths of all the British goods entering Spain are introduced by contraband? Why should we be more lenient to China, the highest officials of which have encouraged the trade in opium, and the trade itself so openly carried on for nearly half a century, that all Pekin, to the Emperor himself, was cognisant of the fact, and indirectly, if not silently, tolerated its existence. The best informed Chinese about Canton, as we are credibly informed, state that the military secretary, the Quongship, received 13,000 taels per month from the commander of each Chinese smuggling boat, (a tael is about six shillings and eightpence sterling,) and the Chinese dealers paid to the authorities from 60 to 80 dollars per chest for license to carry on their trade unmolested; the rate previous to the appointment of Tang, the present Viceroy, having been from 16 to 30, but never exceeding 40 dollars. The Viceroy, of course, participated largely for him
self. As foreigners could have no communication with the Emperor or his ministers, how should they be aware of infractions of the law, in bringing a commodity to be purchased under authority of the highest functionaries?
The sin of the opium trade, if sin there be, rests not with British merchants, but is divisible, in about equal proportions, betwixt the Chinese and British Governments and the East India Company. Mr Jardine fairly placed this in the clearest point, as noticed in a Sydney paper, from which we make the extract:
"Mr Jardine (the senior partner in the firm of Jardine, Matheson, & Co.) being about to bid a final adieu to Canton, the foreign resident merchants invited him to a public dinner; and the resident Parsee merchants presented him with an address expressive of their respect, and their intention to request his acceptance of a service of plate of the value of a thousand guineas. Mr Jardine says:
"I hold, gentlemen, the society of Canton high it holds a high place, in my opinion, even among the merchants of the East; yet I also know that this community has often heretofore and lately been accused of being a set of smugglers. This I distinctly deny; we are not smugglers, gentlemen! It is the Chinese Government, it is the Chinese officers who smuggle, and who connive at and encourage smuggling; not we: and then look at the East India Company-why, the father of all smuggling and smugglers is the East India Company."
The East India Company first carried on the trade in opium on their own account. On their discontinuance of the direct export, the drug was still grown on their lands by their tenants, and on their behalf. They made public sale of it to merchants, well knowing it was destined for export to China, where almost alone its consumption lay. The British Government and Legislature sanctioned the trade for the sake of revenue, as did the East India Company, which gained 300 per cent by it, for profit. Opium was a necessary exchange for tea, which furnishes about £3,500,000 to the Exchequer; and in default of opium for payment, bullion must have inconveniently" oozed out" from the United Kingdom. And yet the certificates of Superintendent Elliot, when presented at the Treasury, have been
dishonoured, as the following protest would seem to imply:
"Treasury Chambers, 11th Nov. 1839. "GENTLEMEN,
Having laid before the Lords Commissioners of her Majesty's Treasury your letter, in which you apply for a settlement of certain claims for opium delivered to the Chinese Government, and transmit certificates signed by Captain C. Elliot, I have received their Lordships' commands to acquaint you, that Parliament has placed at the disposal of this Board no funds out of which any compensation could be made, and that the sanction of Parliament would be required before any such claim could be recognised and paid.
"To prevent any misconception of the intentions of this Board, my Lords have felt it necessary to direct me further to state, that the subject has been under the attentive consideration of her Majesty's Government; and to add, that her Majesty's Government do not propose to submit to Parliament a vote for the payment of such claims.
The justice of the claim we shall not attempt to discuss in the legal point of view; but it is disposed of triumphantly in the masterly argument of Mr Warren, to whose pamphlet we refer our readers. The honour and interests of British merchants could not have been in better keeping. That the trade was formally sanctioned by the British Government and Legisla ture, is conclusively demonstrated by
the fact, that its contraband character was the subject of open discussion in Parliament.
"On the 13th June 1833, Mr Buckingham made it the prominent subject of invective; stigmatizing, in particular, the fact that it was a trade of smuggling, and contrary to the law of China, (vide Han sard, vol. xviii, page 770.) On the 12th July following, Lord Glenelg, then President of the Board of Control, declared the subject of the opium and salt monopolies
in India was UNDER THE SERIOUS CONSIDERATION OF GOVERNMENT, (Hansard, vol. xix page 618;) and after this serious consideration, on the 22d July he stated in the House of Commons, as its conclusive result, that it was not to be forgotten that those monopolies, salt and opium, produced a revenue of £2,500,000!”
The material importance of the opium trade cannot indeed be disputed, if the argument of the merchants rested there alone for the claim to compensation for property delivered
up for the "service of the British Government," on the requisition, and under the guarantee of its agent for payment. A short but pithy letter, entitled "A Voice from the East," places this in a striking point of view.
"From the opium trade the Honourable East India Company have for years derived an immense annual revenue; and through them the British Government and nation have also reaped, from the same trade, an incalculable amount of advantages, both political and financial. profits have not only tended to turn the balance of trade between Great Britain and China in favour of the former, and draw an abundant stream of capital from India, which thus became enabled to increase tenfold its consumption of British manufactures but they have contributed directly to support the vast fabric of British dominion in the East, to defray the expenses of her Majesty's, as well as the Company's, judicial, military, and naval establishments in India; and, by the operations of exchange and remittances in tea and other Chinese produce, to pour an abundant revenue into the British exchequer, and benefit the British nation to the extent of six millions annually, (as shown in Count Bjornstjerna's work,) without impoverishing India or draining bullion from England.
"Hence,' says that author, in his work on the British empire in India, we find that England's gain from its East India possessions amounts to no less than 6,500,000 pounds sterling a year; a sum which would in the end completely ruin this colony, (or, more properly speaking, drain it of its bullion,) if it were remitted in this form. But such is not the case; it comes to England in the following manner-East India opium is sent to China, and is there exchanged for tea; this is taken to England, and covers all the exchange. Such are the phenomena of trade; what the one country gains is not lost by the other: they both gain.'"
The claim of the merchants to indemnity in full for the opium surrendered to order, not under promise of payment only, but against actual bills or certificates drawn on the Treasury by its accredited agent, and passed by the payees to account, rest not however on, and have no necessary connexion with, the profit-and-loss calculation of the opium trade, as it affects the Government and the nation. Whether its continuance be wise or unwise, be honourable or disgraceful, be gainful or prejudicial, may be a fair subject for present or future
deliberation; but the determination, whatever it be, cannot be brought to bear, like an ex post facto law, upon the past in this case; for here the Go vernment and the India Company stand in the relation of principals, by whom former laws were made, or the trade under which carried on licensed, so far as they were concerned : the merchants were only the accessories after the fact, that is, the license to trade. The Government, therefore, cannot make advantage of its own wrong, and, after taking the lion's share of the spoil, refuse protection and withhold indemnification to those who have in person and purse done ample suit and service for both. For, to say nothing of the revenue from tea, the profits of the India Government, which is but a branch of the general revenue in the trade in opium, have been equal to 300 per cent; whilst those of the merchant or factor have averaged the usual rates of mercantile operations, from ten to fifteen per cent only. How, moreover, could the merchants refuse credit to the assurances, and not the assurances only, but the letters of credit, of Superintendent Elliot, given by the Government itself? The public law, no less than the commercial, binds the principal by the acts of the recog nised agent; and to re-assure the merchants, if re-assurance were necessary, he himself had called attention to the vast extent of his powers, by stating in a public notice at Canton, that "he took that occasion to republish that part of the Act of Parliament, and the Orders in Council, on which his INSTRUCTIONS Were founded
which latter, however, it was out of his power to publish."
For our own parts, however, we are inclined to believe, with the Courier, which has enforced this view of the subject, that ambiguous and unsatisfactory as may be the response of the Treasury oracle, the Government really meditate no such flagrant wrong as to repudiate their own acts, and surcharge the suffering merchants with their own responsibilities. The larger proportion of the opium sequestrated, was the property of native merchants of Hindostan. The con
sequences would indeed be disastrous to our Indian empire-an empire founded and reposing in public opinion only were it to be seen suspected that the obligations of common honesty were sought to be