Eighth Earl of Elgin James.

Letters and Journals of James, Eighth Earl of Elgin online

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Having been consulted by the family and friends of the late Lord Elgin as
to the best mode of giving to the world some record of his life, and
having thus contracted a certain responsibility in the work now laid
before the public, I have considered it my duty to prefix a few words by
way of Preface to the following pages.

On Lord Elgin's death it was thought that a career intimately connected
with so many critical points in the history of the British Empire, and
containing in itself so much of intrinsic interest, ought not to be left
without an enduring memorial. The need of this was the more felt because
Lord Elgin was prevented, by the peculiar circumstances of his public
course, from enjoying the familiar recognition to which he would else have
been entitled amongst his contemporaries in England. 'For' (if I may use
the words which I have employed on a former occasion) 'it is one of the
sad consequences of a statesman's life spent like his in the constant
service of his country on arduous foreign missions, that in his own land,
in his own circle, almost in his own home, his place is occupied by
others, his very face is forgotten; he can maintain no permanent ties with
those who rule the opinion, or obtain the mastery, of the day; he has
identified himself with no existing party; he has made himself felt in
none of those domestic and personal struggles which, attract the attention
and fix the interest of the many who contribute in large measure to form
the public opinion of the time. For twenty years the few intervals of Lord
Elgin's residence in these islands were to be counted not by years, but by
months; and the majority of those who might be reckoned amongst his
friends and acquaintances, remembered him chiefly as the eager and
accomplished Oxford student at Christ Church or at Merton.'

The materials for supplying this blank were, in some respects, abundant.
Besides the official despatches and other communications which had passed
between himself and the Home Government during his successive absences in
Jamaica, Canada, China, and India, he had in the two latter positions kept
up a constant correspondence, almost of the nature of a journal, with Lady
Elgin, which combines with his reflections on public events the expression
of his more personal feelings, and thus reveals not only his own genial
and affectionate nature, but also indicates something of that singularly
poetic and philosophic turn of mind, that union of grace and power, which,
had his course lain in the more tranquil walks of life, would have
achieved no mean place amongst English thinkers and writers.

These materials his family, at my suggestion, committed to my friend Mr.
Theodore Walrond, whose sound judgment, comprehensive views, and official
experience are known to many besides myself, and who seemed not less
fitted to act as interpreter to the public at large of such a life and
character, because, not having been personally acquainted with Lord Elgin,
or connected with any of the public transactions recorded in the following
pages, he was able to speak with the sobriety of calm appreciation, rather
than the warmth of personal attachment. In this spirit he kindly
undertook, in the intervals of constant public occupations, to select from
the vast mass of materials placed at his disposal such extracts as most
vividly brought out the main features of Lord Elgin's career, adding such
illustrations as could be gleaned from private or published documents or
from the remembrance of friends. If the work has unavoidably been delayed
beyond the expected term, yet it is hoped that the interest in those great
colonial dependencies for which Lord Elgin laboured, has not diminished
with the lapse of years. It is believed also that there is no time when it
will not be good for his countrymen to have brought before them those
statesmanlike gifts which accomplished the successful accommodation of a
more varied series of novel and entangled situations than has, perhaps,
fallen to the lot of any other public man within our own memory.
Especially might be named that rare quality of a strong overruling sense
of the justice due from man to man, from nation to nation; that
'combination of speculative and practical ability' (so wrote one who had
deep experience of his mind) 'which peculiarly fitted him to solve the
problem how the subject races of a civilised empire are to be governed;'
that firm, courageous, and far-sighted confidence in the triumph of those
liberal and constitutional principles (in the best sense of the word),
which, having secured the greatness of England, were, in his judgment,
also applicable, under other forms, to the difficult circumstances of new
countries and diverse times.

'It is a singular coincidence,' said Lord Elgin, in a speech at Benares a
few months before his end, 'that three successive Governors-General of
India should have stood towards each other in the relationship of
contemporary friends. Lord Dalhousie, when named to the government of
India, was the youngest man who had ever been appointed to a situation of
such high responsibility and trust. Lord Canning was in the prime of life;
and I, if I am not already on the decline, am nearer to the verge of it
than either of my contemporaries who have preceded me. When I was leaving
England for India, Lord Ellenborough, who is now, alas! the only surviving
ex-Governor-General, said to me, '"You are not a very old man; but, depend
upon it, you will find yourself by far the oldest man in India."' To that
mournful catalogue was added his own name within the brief space of one
year; and now a fourth, not indeed bound to the others by ties of personal
or political friendship, but like in energetic discharge of his duties and
in the prime of usefulness in which he was cut off, has fallen by a fate
yet more untimely.

These tragical incidents invest the high office to which such precious
lives have been sacrificed with a new and solemn interest. There is
something especially pathetic when the gallant vessel, as it were, goes
down within very sight of the harbour, with all its accumulated treasures.
But no losses more appeal at the moment to the heart of the country, no
careers deserve to be more carefully enshrined in its grateful


_Deanery, Westminster:
March 4,1872._




Birth and Parentage - School and College - Taste for Philosophy - Training
for Public Life - M.P. for Southampton - Speech on the Address - Appointed
Governor of Jamaica.



Shipwreck - Death of Lady Elgin - Position of a Governor in a West Indian
Colony such as Jamaica - State of Public Opinion in the Island - Questions
of Finance, Education, Agriculture, the Labouring Classes, Religion, the
Church - Harmonising Influences of British Connexion - Resignation
- Appointment to Canada.



State of the Colony - First Impressions - Provincial Politics - 'Responsible
Government' - Irish Immigrants - Upper Canada - Change of Ministry - French
Habitans - The French Question - The Irish - The British - Discontents; their
Causes and Remedies - Navigation Laws - Retrospect - Speech on Education.



Discontent - Rebellion Losses Bill - Opposition to it - Neutrality of the
Governor - Riots at Montreal - Firmness of the Governor - Approval of Home
Government - Fresh Riots - Removal of Seat of Government from Montreal
- Forbearance of Lord Elgin - Retrospect.



Annexation Movement - Remedial Measures - Repeal of the Navigation Laws
- Reciprocity with the United States - History of the Two Measures - Duty of
Supporting Authority - Views on Colonial Government - Colonial Interests the
Sport of Home Parties - No Separation! - Self-Government not necessarily
Republican - Value of the Monarchical Principle - Defences of the Colony.



The 'Clergy Reserves' - History of the Question - Mixed Motives of the
Movement - Feeling in the Province - In Upper Canada - In Lower Canada - Among
Roman Catholics - In the Church - Secularisation - Questions of Emigration,
Labour, Land-tenure, Education, Native Tribes - Relations with the United
States - Mutual Courtesies - Farewell to Canada - At Home.



Origin of the Mission - Appointment of Lord Elgin - Malta - Egypt - Ceylon
- News of the Indian Mutiny - Penang - Singapore - Diversion of Troops to
India - On Board the 'Shannon' - Hong-Kong - Change of Plans - Calcutta and
Lord Canning - Return to China - Perplexities - Caprices of Climate - Arrival
of Baron Gros - Preparation for Action.



Improved Prospects - Advance on Canton - Bombardment and Capture - Joint
Tribunal - Maintenance of Order - Canton Prisons - Move Northward - Swatow
- Mr. Burns - Foochow - Ningpo - Chusan - Potou - Shanghae - Missionaries.



Advance to the Peiho - Taking of the Forts - The Peiho River - Tientsin
- Negotiations - The Treaty - The Eight of Sending a Minister to Pekin
- Return southward - Sails for Japan.



Embark for Japan - Coast Views - Simoda - Off Yeddo - Yeddo - Conferences - A
Country Ride - Peace and Plenty - Feudal System - A Temple - A Juggler
- Signing the Treaty - Its Terms - Retrospect.



Delays - Subterfuges defeated by Firmness - Revised Tariff - Opium Trade - Up
the Yangtze Kiang - Silver Island - Nankin - Rebel Warfare - The Hen-Barrier
- Unknown Waters - Difficult Navigation - Hankow - The Governor-General
- Return - Taking to the Gunboats - Nganching - Nankin - Retrospect - More
Delays - Troubles at Canton - Return to Hong-Kong - Mission completed
- Homeward Voyage



Lord Elgin in England - Origin of Second Mission to China - Gloomy
Prospects - Egypt - The Pyramids - The Sphinx - Passengers Homeward bound
- Ceylon - Shipwreck - Penang - Singapore - Shanghae - Meeting with Mr. Bruce
- Talien-Whan - Sir Hope Grant - Plans for Landing.



The Landing - Chinese Overtures - Taking of the Forts - The Peiho - Tientsin
- Negotiations broken off - New Plenipotentiaries - Agreement made - Agreement
broken - Treacherous Seizure of Mr. Parkes and others - Advance on Pekin
- Return of some of the Captives - Fate of the rest - Burning of the Summer
Palace - Convention signed - Funeral of the murdered Captives - Imperial
Palace - Prince Kung - Arrival of Mr. Bruce - Results of the Mission.



Leaving the Gulf - Detention at Shanghae - Kowloon - Adieu to China - Island
of Luzon - Churches - Government - Manufactures - General Condition - Island of
Java - Buitenzorg - Bantong - Volcano - Soirées - Retrospect - Ceylon - The
Mediterranean - England - Warm Reception - Dunfermline - Royal Academy Dinner
- Mansion House Dinner.



Appointed Viceroy of India - Forebodings - Voyage to India - Installation
- Deaths of Mr. Ritchie, Lord Canning, General Bruce - The Hot Season
- Business resumed - State of the Empire - Letters: the Army; Cultivation of
Cotton; Orientals not all Children; Missionaries; Rumours of Disaffection;
Alarms; Murder of a Native; Afghanistan; Policy of Lord Canning;
Consideration for Natives.



Duty of a Governor-General to visit the Provinces - Progress to the North-
West - Benares - Speech on the Opening of the Railway - Cawnpore - Grand
Durbar at Agra - Delhi - Hurdwar - Address to the Sikh Chiefs at Umballa
- Kussowlie - Simla - Letters: Supply of Labour; Special Legislation;
Missionary Gathering; Finance; Seat of Government; Value of Training at
Head-quarters; Aristocracies; against Intermeddling - The Sitana Fanatics
- Himalayas - Rotung Pass - Twig Bridge - Illness - Death - Characteristics
- Burial-place.




&c. &c.




[Sidenote: Birth and parentage.]

James, eighth Earl of Elgin and twelfth Earl of Kincardine, was born in
London on July 20, 1811. His father, whose career as Ambassador at
Constantinople is so well known in connection with the 'Elgin Marbles,'
was the chief and representative of the ancient Norman house, whose hero
was 'Robert the Bruce.' From him, it may be said that he inherited the
genial and playful spirit which gave such a charm to his social and
parental relations, and which helped him to elicit from others the
knowledge of which he made so much use in the many diverse situations of
his after-life. His mother, Lord Elgin's second wife, was a daughter of
Mr. Oswald, of Dunnikier, in Fifeshire. Her deep piety, united with wide
reach of mind and varied culture, made her admirably qualified to be the
depositary of the ardent thoughts and aspirations of his boyhood; and, as
he grew up, he found a second mother in his elder sister, Matilda, who
became the wife of Sir John Maxwell, of Pollok. To the influence of such a
mother and such a sister he probably owed the pliancy and power of
sympathy with others for which he was remarkable, and which is not often
found in characters of so tough a fibre. To them, from his earliest years,
he confided the outpourings of his deeper religious feelings. One
expression of such feeling, dated June 1821, may be worth recording as an
example of that strong sense of duty and affection towards his brothers,
which, beginning at that early age, marked his whole subsequent career.
'Be with me this week, in my studies, my amusements, in everything. When
at my lessons, may I think only of them; playing when I play: when
dressing, may I be quick, and never put off time, and never amuse myself
but in playhours. Oh! may I set a good example to nay brothers. Let me not
teach them anything that is bad, and may they not learn wickedness from
seeing me. May I command my temper and passions, and give me a better
heart for their good.'

[Sidenote: School and college.]

He learned the rudiments of Latin and Greek under the careful teaching of
a resident tutor, Mr. Fergus Jardine. At the age of fourteen he went to
Eton, and thence, in due time, to Christ Church, Oxford, where he found
him self among a group of young men destined to distinction in after-life
- Lord Canning, James Ramsay (afterwards Lord Dalhousie), the late Duke
of Newcastle, Sidney Herbert, and Mr. Gladstone.

There is little to record respecting this period of his life; but a
touching interest attaches to the following extracts from a letter written
by his brother, Sir Frederick Bruce, in November, 1865.

'My recollections of Elgin's early life are, owing to circumstances,
almost nothing. In the year 1820 he went abroad with my father and mother,
and was away for two years. From that time I recollect nothing until he
went to Eton; and his holidays were then divided between Torquay, where my
eldest brother was, and Broomhall;[1] and of them my memory has retained
nothing but the assistance in his later holidays he used to give me in
classical studies.

We were together for about a year and a half at Oxford. But he was so far
advanced in his studies, that we had very little in common to bring us
together; and I hardly remember any striking fact connected with him,
except one or two speeches at the Union Club, when in eloquence and
originality he far outshone his competitors.[2]

'I do not know whether Mr. Welland is still alive: he probably, better
than anyone, could give some sketch of his intellectual growth, and of
that beautiful trait in his character, the devotion and abnegation he
showed o poor Bruce[3] in his long and painful illness.

'He was always reserved about his own feelings and aspirations. Owing to
the shortness of his stay at Oxford, he had to work very hard; and his
friends, like Newcastle and Hamilton, were men who sought him for the
soundness of his judgment, which led them to seek his advice in all
matters. He always stood to them in the relation of a much older man. He
had none of the frailties of youth, and, though very capable of enjoying
its diversions, life with him from a very early date was "sicklied o'er
with the pale cast of thought." Its practical aspect to him was one of
anxiety and difficulty, while his intellect was attracted to high and
abstract speculation, and took little interest in the every-day routine
which is sufficient occupation for ordinary minds. Like all men of
original mind, he lived a life apart from his fellows.

'He looked upon the family estate rather as a trust than as an
inheritance - as far more valuable than money on account of the family
traditions, and the position which in our state of society is given to a
family connected historically with the country. Elgin felt this deeply,
and he clung to it in spite of difficulties which would have deterred a
man of more purely selfish views.'

'It is melancholy to reflect,' adds Sir F. Bruce, 'how those have
disappeared who could have filled up this gap in his history.' It is a
reflection even more melancholy, that the loved and trusted brother, who
shared so many of his labours and his aspirations, no longer lives to
write that history, and to illustrate in his own person the spirit by
which it was animated.

The sense of the difficulties above referred to strongly impressed his
mind even before he went to Oxford, and laid the foundation of that habit
of self-denial in all personal matters, which enabled him through life to
retain a feeling of independence, and at the same time to give effect to
the promptings of a generous nature. 'You tell me,' he writes to his
father from college, 'I coin money. I uncoined your last order by putting
it into the fire, having already supplied myself.'

About the middle of his Oxford career, a studentship fell vacant, which,
according to the strange system then prevalent, was in the gift of Dr.
Bull, one of the Canons of Christ Church. Instead of bestowing it, as was
too commonly done, on grounds of private interest, Dr. Bull placed the
valuable prize at the disposal of the Dean and Censors, to be conferred on
the most worthy of the undergraduates. Their choice fell on James Bruce.
In announcing this to a member of the Bruce family, Dr. Bull wrote: 'Dr.
Smith, no less than the present college officers, assures me that there is
no young man, of whatever rank, who could be more acceptable to the
society, and none whose appointment as the reward of excellent deportment,
diligence, and right-mindedness, would do more good among the young men.'

A letter written about this time to his father shows that the young
student, with a sagacity beyond his years, discerned the germs of an evil
which has since grown to a great height, and now lies at the root of some
of the most troublesome questions connected with University Education.

In my own mind I confess I am much of opinion, that college is put off
in general till too late;[4] and the gaining of _honours_
therefore, becomes too severe to be useful to men who are to enter
into professions. It was certainly originally intended that the
degrees which require only a knowledge of the classics should be taken
at an earlier age, in order to admit of a residence after they were
taken, during which the student might devote himself to science or
composition, and those habits of reflection by which the mind might be
formed, and a practical advantage drawn from the stores of knowledge
already acquired. By putting them off to so late an age, the
consequence has been, that it has been necessary proportionably to
increase the difficulty of their attainment, and to mix up in college
examinations (which were supposed to depend upon study alone) essays
in many cases of a nature that demands the most prolonged and deep
reflection. The effect of this is evident. Those who, from
circumstances, have neither opportunity nor leisure thus to reflect,
must, in order to secure their success, acquire that kind of
superficial information which may enable them to draw sufficiently
plausible conclusions, upon very slight grounds; and [of] many who
have this _form_ of knowledge, most will eventually be proved (if
this system is carried to an excess) to have but little of the
_substance_ of it.

He had meant to read for double honours, but illness, brought on by over-
work, obliged him to confine himself to classics. All who know Oxford are
aware, that the term 'Classics,' as there used, embraces not only Greek
and Latin scholarship, but also Ancient History and Philosophy. In these
latter studies the natural taste and previous education of James Bruce led
him to take a special interest, and he threw himself into the work in no
niggard spirit.[5] At the Michaelmas Examination of 1832, he was placed in
the first class in classics, and common report spoke of him as 'the best
first of his 'year.' Not long afterwards he was elected Fellow of Merton.
He appears to have been a candidate also for the Eldon Scholarship, but
without success. In a contest for a legal prize it was no discredit to be
defeated by Roundell Palmer.

[Sidenote: Taste for philosophy.]

Some of his contemporaries have a lively remembrance of the eagerness with
which, while still a student, he travelled into fields at that period
beyond the somewhat narrow range of academic study. Professor Maurice at
one time, Dr. Pusey at another, were his delighted companions in exploring
the dialogues of Plato. Mr. Gladstone 'remembers his speaking of Milton's
prose works with great fervour when they were at Eton together;' and adds
the confession - interesting alike as regards both the young students - 'I
think it was from his mouth I first learned that Milton had written any
prose,' This affection for those soul-stirring treatises of the great
advocate of free speech and inquiry he always retained: they formed his
constant companions wherever he travelled; and there are many occasions in
which their influence may be traced on his thought and language. 'I would
rather swallow a bushel of chaff than lose the precious grains of truth
which may somewhere or other be scattered in it,' was a sentiment which,
though expressed in much later life, was characteristic of his whole
career. In this spirit he listened with deep interest to the roll of
theological controversy then raging at Oxford, though he was never carried
away by its violence.

In after life he had little leisure to pursue the philosophic studies
commenced at Oxford; but they took deep and permanent hold on his mind,
and formed in fact the groundwork of his great practical ability. This is
well stated by Sir Frederick Bruce: -

In Elgin (to use the distinctions of Coleridge, whose philosophy he
had thoroughly mastered) the Reason and Understanding were both
largely developed, and both admirably balanced. And in this
combination lay the secret of his success in so many spheres of
action, so different in their characteristics, so alike in their
difficulties. The process he went through was always the same. He set
himself to work to form in his own mind a clear idea of each of the
constituent parts of the problem with which he had to deal. This he
effected partly by reading, but still more by conversation with
special men, and by that extraordinary logical power of mind and
penetration which not only enabled him to get out of every man all he
had in him, but which revealed to those men themselves a knowledge of
their own imperfect and crude conceptions, and made them constantly
unwilling witnesses or reluctant adherents to views which originally
they were prepared to oppose. To test the accuracy of their statements
and observations, and to discriminate between what was fact and what
was prejudice or misconception, he made use of the higher faculty of

Online LibraryEighth Earl of Elgin JamesLetters and Journals of James, Eighth Earl of Elgin → online text (page 1 of 45)