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Books - The Opium War Through Chinese Eyes
Written by Richard Morris   

Palmerston's letter to the 'Minister of the Chinese Emperor'.

Thiss was written in February it 84o, at which time Palmerston's latest news from China dated from November 1839. There was no prospect of the letter being seen at Peking till the summer of 184o. It had consequently to be sufficiently general and abstract still to make sense under altered circumstances ; for it was obvious that in six months or more the situation might have considerably changed. The main concrete demands are (I ) payment for confiscated opium ; (2) British officials to be com-municated with 'in a manner consistent with the usages of civilized nations' ; (3) payment by the Chinese Government of what was owed to the English merchants by the Chinese guild-merchants ; (4) one or more sufficiently large and properly situated islands to be permanently given up to the British Goverrunent ; (s) British war expenses to be indemnified.

The note assumes, quite falsely, that no attempt has been made by the Chinese Government to enforce anti-opium measures in the case of their own subjects. Perhaps the strangest assertion in the,letter is (Morse, p. 621) that Elliot was 'in no wise connected with trade'. Why, then, the Chinese must have wondered, was he called 'Superintendent of Trade' ? However the denial was, in a way, quite to the point, as Lin had informed the Emperor on November 2i 0839) that Elliot got a rake-off of twenty or thirty dollars on the price of every chest of opium that was sold!'

The Chinese version, presumably by J. R. Morrison, is so unidiomatic as to be sometimes unintelligible without reference to the English original. It is discussed (in Chinese) by T. F. Tsiang in an article called `Ch`i-shan and the Opium War', Ching Hua Hsiieh Pao, VI. 3

(193x), p. 17.
II. 187.


Our valuable member Richard Morris has been with us since Tuesday, 21 February 2012.

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