« ForrigeFortsett »
tors that they should interfere to stop the opium traffic, first of all we must have such a measure made out to be a possibility. Now the Duke puts down that notion ex abundanti. For, at a time when certain intolerable treaties with native princes had armed us with a machinery towards this result, such as we never shall have again, and never ought to have had, even then we could not succeed in operating upon the trade, except after the following fashion:-Our Indian Government proclaimed restrictions: our merchants, native as well as British, evaded them. Our Government made another move in the game, evading the evasions. Our merchants, wide-awake, counter-evaded the evasions of their own evasions. And thus the sport proceeded, the two parties doubling upon each other, and dodging like an old experienced hare against a greyhound: until at last, upon a necessity arising for the Government to abolish the treaties, we were obliged to whip off the dogs, and the game party of merchants had it all their own way. Lord Ellenborough, whose former experience at the Board of Control made his evidence irresistible on this point, confirmed all that the Duke had said ; with circumstantial illustrations of this vain race with the merchants, and showing that even for that ineffectual trial of strength, our Indian Government enjoyed some momentary advantages which it must never count upon for the future. We have seen the best of our facilities for such a conflict with private interest. Even then it was a hopeless conflict: à fortiori it will be so hereafter. Impossibilities are no subjects for legislation : by civil law—“ nemo tenetur facere impossibilia.”
Thirdly-But possible or not in a practical and executive sense, if it is our duty to restrain any given social nuisance ; we must not plead our impotence in bar of complaints against us : and in default of our own restraints, we must not complain if others suffering by the nuisance take that remedy into their own hands which we profess to have found too difficult for ours. Other checks failing, let us not complain of those for redressing the evil who suffer by the annoyance. Certainly not. Nor do we complain. Nor is there any thing to that effect involved in any one British act, or in any one argument that ha been built upon it. We quarrel with no nation for enforcing her rights of domestic policy, so long as she keeps herself within the methods of international justice. But, with respect to China, we make two demurs: we refuse to hear of any people raising their separate municipal law into a code of international law: it is not merely insolence, but it is contradictory folly to suppose, that, in a dispute between two independent parties, one of the parties is to constitute himself umpire for both. This demur we make in the first place. And secondly, we say, that, apart from her savage modes of redressing civil wrongs, China has, in this instance, forfeited her claim to any redress from her long collusion with the wrongdoers, whom now in caprice she accuses; and because, not only she participated through every class of her population in the opium traffic, which with us rested on the support of those only who were naturally, inevitably, without bribes, the agents of such a traffic, but also because she was the original tempter, inviter, hirer, clamorous suborner, of that intercourse which now she denounces. Roguery, like other tastes, has its fashions. and court intrigue are now, it seems, blowing from some fresh point of the compass. Be it so.
We argue not against any nation's caprices. But we refuse to hear of our merchants andour sailors being made the victims to such caprices--this year inviting the man whom next year they crucify.
That duty, therefore, which so many are urging against us, as binding our faith and tying our hands in the collision with China, the Duke of Wellington disowns as being a pure chimera under the circumstances of the case. the other hand, says the Duke, whilst these men argue for an obligation of conscience which cannot be sustained, observe the real and solemn obligations, some notorious, some implied in treaties, which these disputants are goading us to trample under foot. That duty of superintendence applied to opium, which is merely fanciful as regards China under the circumstances created by herself, we really do owe, and shall for many years owe, to native powers of Hindostan. We came under such obligations by contracts, by cessions in our favour, by diplomatic acts, long since locked up into the public diplomacy of India. We cannot disturb those arrangements without a sympathetic violence running through the whole tenure, guarantees, compensations of all Indian
chanceries. We were long ago pledged to the protection of many vested interests rooted in the poppy-growing districts. If we should co-operate with China in vainly attempting to exclude Indian opium from the vast unprotected coasts of China, we undertake the following series of follies: we lend ourselves to a caprice of a hostile government; to a caprice levelled at our own power : we undertake to do for China what she is laughably impotent to do for herself: we take upon ourselves the expenses of an act so purely hostile to ourselves, which expense would else soon recall China to her senses : and lastly, as if such a course of follies were not complete without an appendix of spoliation, we purchase the means of this aid to our enemy by the sacrifice of debts, duties, contracts, guarantees to the closest of our neighbours, and, amongst our Indian allies, to some of the oldest and most hopeful. The Duke of Wellington, we must remember, is at home in the affairs of India. And this particular sug. gestion, as to the rights and interests of provinces likely to be affected by any compromises with China, belongs entirely to his Grace. Until this vein of interests had been exposed, it was supposed that a policy of concession to China would simply pledge us to a maniacal course : whereas the Duke has shown that it would pledge us also to pertidy, to a general infraction of treaties, and to a convulsion of industry and political economy through many channels in which they are now prosperously flowing:
Such is the circuit of the Duke's logic. Travelling round the circle of parties concerned, when he hears it said of the Chinese They have received an injury amounting to a cause of war, “ By no means," he replies ; "they courted what they complain of. I have proof ihat they did.” When he hears it said of the merchants— Their trade must be stopped-he replies: “I defy you to stop it.: the thing has been tried, and was laid aside as impossible.” When it is retorted" Well, if is an inveterate abuse, at least it is an abuse,"—the Duke rejoins, “ No abuse at all : Parliament recognised an old right, created a new one, in the opium growers." “ But, at least, justice to China requires that the right should be forborne in that instance.” “ On the contrary," the Duke again instructs us, "justice to India requires, that in that instance, above all others, the right should be protected and favoured.” Thus pertinaciously does this champion of truth and scourge of false pretensions ride round the ring, and sustain the assault against all comers who would make a breach through the barriers of equity or civil policy.
But, after all these parties are disposed of, there still remains,
III. Our domestic Administration. Now in what degree the Duke of Wel. lington condemns their policy, in its want of foresight, may be gathered from his special complaints, both now and formerly, of the twofold defects at Can. ton-defect of naval force, defect of naval judicatories ; and, more generally, from bis complaint that far too great an onus was thrown upon the responsibi. lities of Captain Elliot ; too much, in fact, for any one man unrelieved by a council to support. His objections, indeed, to the Ministry come forward indirectly in the errors which he exposes, and the cautions which he suggests. But the reasons why the Duke makes no pointed attack on Lord Melbourne's government are, first of all, the general principles which govern this great servant of the state in all movements-viz. his anxiety for ever to look round the wide horizon for some national benefit, rather than into a local corner for some party triumph ; and, secondly, because upon this particular question of China, the present Ministry are not so much opposed to the Tories, as to a fantastic party of moral sentimentalists, who, by force of investing the Chinese with feelings unintelligible to Pagans, (substituting at the same time a romance for the facts of the case,) have terminated in forcing upon the public eye a false position of the whole interest at stake ; a position in which all the relations of person are inverted, in which things are confounded, and our duties (otherwise so clear) are utterly perplexed. It is this anti-national party who, on these questions of Opium and China, form the true antagonist pole to the Ministry. As to us Tories, we are here opposed to the party in office, only in so far as they have conceded to the Chinese. Where they have met this arrogant people with an English resistance, we praise them, honour them, support them. And exactly upon that mixed principle of judgment it has been—that the Duke, seeing the strong primary demand that he should support them, has less
diligently sought out those secondary cases in which it would have been necessary for him to blame or to condemn them.
Thus far with regard to the Past, and the general distribution of blame which that review must prompt. As to the Future, and the particular courses of Oriental policy which any speculation pointed in that direction must suggest for comparison-it will be remarked, as a singularity in so great a soldier whén facing a question so purely martial, that the Duke of Wellington declines to offer any opinion whatever on the possible varieties of warfare, on the modes of combining the land and sea forces, on the local opportunities for applying them with effect, on the best general chances of success, or the permanent object to be kept in view. But let us not misinterpret this high-principled
Some persons have drawn the inference so as to load the Duke of Wellington with the responsibility of having doubted whether a warlike course were, in our circumstances, an advisable course. Nothing of the sort. Not war, but this war; not a warlike policy as generally indicated by our situation, but that kind of policy as governed by our present disposable means, and moving under some particular plan, of which the very outline is yet unknown and the scale is yet unassigned—that it is which the Duke drew back from appreciating. Knowing the immense weight which must follow any opinion from himself upon a matter so professionally falling within his right of judgment, he forebore to prejudge a scheme of war as to which Europe was hanging on his lips. But, as to war generally, that the Duke does not encourage doubts of the necessity to support our pacific relation at all times by showy demonstrations of our readiness for fighting-is evident from the constant recurrence in his own Chinese state-papers of warlike suggestions. It is almost comic to observe what stress he lays, in sketching the line of argument to be employed by British negotiators with China, upon " a stout frigate” within hail.
In one point only we are reminded, whilst closing, of a difference between the Duke of Wellington's views and those which we had previously expressed. As this point respects an individual officer, it is fit that we should do him justice by the whole vast preponderance which belongs to the Duke of Wellington's praise over any man's censure. We had blamed Captain Elliot: the Duke praises him with a fervour that must constitute Captain Elliot's proudest recollection through life. But the truth is—we speak of different things. We -spoke of Captain Elliot as identified with his principals, and as representing their line of policy. The Duke speaks of him as a separate individual, acting, in a moment of danger, according to a true British sense of duty upon sudden emergencies, for which he could have received no instructions from England. In his firm refusals to give up Mr Dent, and afterwards the six sailors demanded by Lin, Captain Elliot's conduct was worthy of his country. And the Duke of Wellington, who is always right, reminds us, by his fervent commendation, of our own error in having neglected to place those acts in that light of exemplary merit which belongs to them.
And here we cannot help saying a word or two of one of the few men in any period who has lived to see his own consecration in human affections, and has had a foretaste of his own immortality on earth. Let us briefly notice the Duke of Wellington's present position amongst us; which is remarkable, and almost unique.
Until within these few years this great man had been adequately appreciated according to the means which the nation then possessed for framing a judgment of his merits.
We measured him, that is to say, by his acts. Europe had seen him as a soldier ; had seen him as an ambassador--no ceremonial ambassador, but in a general congress of nations still rocking with the agitations of convulsions without a parallel, as a mediatorial ambassador for adjudicating the rights of the world : finally, Europe had seen him as a prime minister of England. In the first character, as the leader of the faithful armies” which, under whatever name, did in reality sustain the interests of human nature and the cause of civilisation upon earth, it would be idle to speak of him. In the two last characters, it was the general feeling of England that the Duke of Wellington had exemplified “the majesty of plain dealing" upon a scale never before witnessed, and in functions to which such a spirit of dealing was hardly supposed applicable, Thus far we all did him right, but we also did him
a great wrong; and it was inevitable that we should do so. It was a wrong which he bore cheerfully, and with the submission which he felt to be one of his duties as a public servant in a free country. But it must have been bitter and trying to his secret sense of justice, seeing that subsequent revelations have exposed to view a peculiar and preternatural strength, a compass of power absolutely without precedent, in that very organ of his character to which our popular error ascribed au elementary weakness. Nobody can look back for a space of six or eight years but he must remember as a general notion prevailing against the Duke of Wellington, as a taunt often urged against us by our political opponents, often silently conceded by ourselves—that, either from habits of long usage, or from original vice of temperament, he was too rigid and untractable in his political opinions; in his demeanour too peremptory, too uncivic ; that with the highest virtues of the military character he combined some of its worst disqualitications for political life; that his notions tended to impress too martial a character of discipline upon the public service; that even his virtues of a civic order were alloyed with this spirit—his directness and plain dealing being but another aspect of that peremptory spirit which finds its proper place in a camp; and that, finally, as to the substantial merits of national wants or grievances, apart from the mode and manner of his administration, not less by temper than by his modes of experience, the Duke was incapacitated for estimating the spirit of his age, and stood aloof from all popular sympathies. Thus stood public opinion, when a memorable act of retribution was rendered to the Duke's merits, and a monument raised to his reputation, such as will co-exist with our language, in the series of his Despatches, &c., published by Colonel Gurwood. The effect was profound. The Duke of Wellington had long been raised as far beyond the benefits, as he is beyond the need, of any trivial enthusiasm derived from momentary sources or vulgar arts: and this book was fitted to engage the attention of none but the highly cultivated. The reverence of the land for the Duke's character, the gratitude of the land for the Duke's services, scarcely seemed open to increase. But undoubtedly a depth of tone and a solemnity approaching to awe, were impressed henceforth upon the feelings with which all thoughtful men regarded the Duke of Wellington as an intellectual being. Now, first, it was understood what quality of intellect had been engaged in our service, moving amongst what multiplied embarrassments, thwarted by what conflicts even in friendly quarters, winning its way by what flexibility of address, watching all obstacles by what large compass of talents, and compensating every disadvantage for the public service by what willing sacrifices of selfish feeling. Were it not for the singleness of purpose, for the perfect integrity, for the absolute self-dedication, and the sublime simplicity, we should say-Here is a Machiavelian subtlety of understanding ! With an apostolical grandeur of purpose, there is here combined the address of a finished intriguer; and for a service of nations upon the grandest scale, we see displayed a restless and a versatile spirit of submission to circumstances and to characters, which, according to all the experience of this world, belongs naturally to modes of selfishness the most intense. The wisdom of long-suffering ; the policies of allowance in matters of practice; the spirit of indulgence to errors that were redeemable; the transcendent power to draw into unity of effect, elements the most heterogeneous, and tempers the most incompatible ; in short, that spirit of civic accommodation to the times in which we had supposed him to have been most wanting, and that spirit of regard to the bold national temperament of the armies he led, which was held most irreconcilable with martial discipline;precisely these were the qualities which the Gurwood correspondence has exposed as the foremost of the Duke's endowments: in any case, the very rarest endowments; and in this case, amongst an army so high-spirited, the most operative for the final success. In short, to sum up the truth by the sharpest antithesis, instead of ruling in his civic administration by means of military maxims, the Duke of Wellington applied to military measures and to the conduct of armies that spirit of civic policy which, in times less critical by far, had not been attempted by generals of nations the most democratic.
Such is the retributory service, late but perfect, rendered to the Duke's character. The shades of evening are now stealing over his life; and for him,
also, that night is coming in which no man can work. But as yet no abatement is visible in his energies of public duty. Tenderness, as towards a ward of the nation, is now beginning to mingle with our veneration. And, in the course of nature, the anxieties of a mighty people will soon be suspended on his health, as they have long been suspended on his majestic wisdom.
Meantime, there is a kind of duty-upon every question of politics to which the Duke of Wellington has been constructively a party-of looking towards him as the centre upon which our public counsels revolve. But in Asiatic questions he has a closer interest, and a sort of property by various tenures. Through his elder brother, as a brilliant administrator of our British Empire in India, and through his own memorable share in raising that empire, he has obtained a distinct cognizance of Indian rights, which makes him their natural guardian. And of this opium dispute he has himself demonstrated-that in its rebound, it is more truly a question for our Indian friends than for our Chinese antagonists. To the Duke, therefore, at any rate, we look in this emergency-as one which lies originally within his field. And it is with the view of exhibiting the man as matched against the crisis-of equalizing the authority with the occasion—that we have digressed into this act of critical justice to the Duke's merits. But, if that course would have been a matter of propriety whilst merely looking with a general political deference to the Duke's authority, much more is it become such after the Duke's comprehensive examination of the case ; and after the effect of that examination has been put on record by so public a test as instantly followed: some persons having silently, some avowedly, withdrawn from the further prosecution of a question which, in this stage at least, bad been laid to rest by his Grace’s exposition of its merits.