Eighth Earl of Elgin James.

Letters and Journals of James, Eighth Earl of Elgin online

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perfect manner, neglecting no opportunity of acquiring fresh and of
consolidating previous knowledge, promised a career honourable to
himself, and, what he valued far more, advantageous to the public, had
it pleased God to spare him.

'Now there remains to those who knew him intimately only this
consoling conviction, that death, however sudden, could not find him

[10] The only English prisoner ultimately unaccounted for was Captain
Brabazon, Deputy-Assistant Quarter-Master-General of Artillery, an
officer whose finished talent and skill in drawing had often been of
the greatest service in taking sketches of the country for the
military operations. His body was never found; but it was believed
that he had been beheaded by order of a Chinese General in his
exasperation at a wound received in the action of the 21st of October.

[11] A well-known Protestant M.P.

[12] Mr. Adkins.




The first part of the homeward voyage, along coasts already so well known,
offered little to dwell upon except the thankful recollection of what had
been accomplished, and the joyful anticipation of happy meetings to come.
The journal contains the following entries: -

[Sidenote: Leaving the Gulf.]

_'Ferooz,' Gulf of Pecheli. - November 27th._ - So far on my way home. I
left Tientsin on the 25th at about 7 A.M. We had to plough our way
through ice until we reached the Taku Forts, at 8.30 P.M. We found the
Admiral in the 'Coromandel.' He was very civil, and would have given
me accommodation for the night; but I had so many people with me, that
I thought it better to push on; so at about midnight we crossed the
bar of the Peiho river. There was so much broken ice on the inner side
of it, that it reminded one of some of the pictures of the arctic
voyages. We forced our vessel through - a little Indian river-boat - and
found on the outside enough sea to make us very glad when we reached
the 'Ferooz' at 2.30 A.M. It was about 4 A.M. when I was able to lie
down to rest. Since then we have been waiting for Parkes, who stayed
at Tientsin for a letter from Pekin about the opening of the Yangtze
river, which I am anxious to take with me to Shanghae. ... Yesterday
was a lovely day; a bright sun, and the air frosty enough to stimulate
one to walk briskly. This morning there was a strong gale from the
north-west, but it subsided after midday. I had a very satisfactory
time at Tientsin. We got through a good deal of business; and, what is
most pleasant to me, Frederick seems perfectly satisfied with the
whole affair, and the part I have taken in it. ... The Admiral, who is
very strong in support of me, had given orders that the whole fleet
should be illuminated with blue lights, if I reached the 'Ferooz' at
night. This I did not know, or I should not have chosen so
unseasonable an hour. The consequence was that the illumination was
not complete, but it had a fine effect so far as it went. Scores of
transports have taken their departure, which is a great blessing, for
they have been costing fabulous sums. Too many troops are still left;
but I hope soon to get them reduced.

_November 28th. - Two P.M._ - We are off. All the vessels in the
English fleet here manned yards and saluted as we passed; and, when we
reached the French fleet, all the yards were manned, and the Admiral
saluted. I thought we could not do less than return the latter. It was
all a very fine sight, the day being favourable. Parkes arrived last
night while we were at dinner, but without the letter which he had
waited for. The latter, however, reached me this morning, and is very
satisfactory; so that I shall have accomplished the great object of
opening the Yangtze to trade.

After a few days of 'lovely weather,' enjoyed to the full in the 'Ferooz' -
'certainly a most splendid yacht - such a fine deck, and quieter than a
Royal Navy vessel' - he reached Shanghae on the 3rd of December.

[Sidenote: Shanghae.]

_Shanghae. - December 4th._ - We reached this place at 3 P.M. yesterday.
I have received your letters to October 9th. How I grieve for your
anxiety about Bruce's illness! How glad I am he is near the - - 's. He
could not be watched over by kinder friends.

Eagerly as he desired to hurry homewards he found it necessary to stay at
Shanghae for some weeks, in order to complete the detailed arrangements for
opening the river Yangtze to British traders, and also to settle the
awkward question of the relations which should subsist between the British
residents, and the Chinese Rebels in their neighbourhood.

_Shanghae. - December 14th._ - I am a good deal puzzled about my
departure. The opening of the Yangtze and the Rebel question are
serious matters, and I do not like to leave them unsettled: on the
other hand, I can hardly, even if I were so inclined, remain here till
they are settled. I think it will end in my staying till the next mail
comes in from the North.

_Sunday, December 16th. - Eight A.M._ - The mornings are lovely here
now; a bright sun, rising about half-past six; and not exactly frost,
but a mere hint of its presence in the air. I take walks, and have
just returned from one; generally the tour of the race ground, which
is the only walk here. While I humbly pace along, the clerks of the
_Hongs_ - such of them at least as are careful of their healths, and
moderate in their supper arrangements - flaunt past me on their
chargers. I march on, thinking whether it would not in a new existence
be advisable to begin life as a tea-taster.

_December 21st._ - The wind has changed to the north, and my walk this
morning was a colder one. Yesterday I made a tour of the town of
Shanghae, and find that the French, by way of protecting it, burnt
down about one-half of the suburbs during the summer. They have
destroyed it to a greater extent than we destroyed Canton in 1857 by
our bombardment. 'Save me from my friends,' the poor Chinaman may well
say. The French have some method in their madness, for they want the
ground of the burnt district, and they insist on having it now at the
cost of the land, 'as there are no houses upon it.' At Canton, in the
same way, they have seized land in the most unjustifiable way, to
build churches on.

_Shanghae. - December 31st._ - Yesterday was a torrent of rain, and I
never left the house. As I have a comfortable room, and no great
interruptions, I get through a good deal of my reading. ... There was
a fortnight of the 'Times' to begin with. The Reviews. ... Trollope's
novel of 'Dr. Thorne;' 'Aurora Leigh' (which I admire greatly); then
Sir Robert Wilson's 'Russian Campaign,' which contains some curious
revelations; Darwin's 'Origin of Species,' which is audacious; &c. &c.
In short, you will allow that I have not been quite idle during the

_January 1st,_ 1861.-This is the first time I sign the new year. May
it bring much happiness to you!... It was introduced here by
dancing. But I was not in a lively humour, and retired as soon as I
could.... No mail yet, and I would start without it, were it not that
I expect three mails by it.

[Sidenote: Hong-Kong.]

At length, on the 4th of January, he writes, 'Hurrah! I am off, with a fair
wind.' On the 8th he reached Hong-Kong, where he found little to detain
him; the most important matter being the formal taking possession, in the
Queen's name, of the recently ceded peninsula of Kowloon.

_Hong-Kong. - January 10th._ - I presume, from the apologetic tone of a
speech (very civil in itself) made by Lord J. Russell in the city, and
quoted in the 'Home News,' that I was being well abused in England
when the mail left. It is all miserable enough, but I had rather that
it had blown over before I reach home, as I might seem to reflect on
others if I defended myself, and you say truly that we have had enough
of that kind of thing.

_January 15th._ - I find that the new Factory site [at Canton], about
which I had such a fight with the merchants last time, is a great
success.[1] Its merit is now acknowledged by the blindest.

In a subsequent letter, referring to the last days of his stay at Hong-
Kong, he wrote:-

[Sidenote: Kowloon.]

We had a sort of ceremonial on Saturday the 19th. I went to Kowloon,
and proclaimed formally the annexation of that territory to the
dominions of the Queen. This acquisition, the good site at Canton, and
the opening-up of the North of China and Japan, have added at least
twenty per cent. to the value of European life in China.

[Sidenote: Adieu to China.]

On the 21st of January he bade a final adieu to the shores of China, and
directed his course to Manila; desiring to avoid this time the dreary line
to Singapore which he had traversed so often, and attracted also by the new
fields which the Spanish and Dutch colonies offered for his observation.

[Sidenote: Manila.]

_At Sea, near Manila. - January 24th._ - I wrote a very shabby line to
you as I was leaving Hong-Kong, but it may not perhaps be an unwelcome
one, as it informed you I had started. We have had rough weather, and
I take up my pen to-day for the first time. We are now under the lee
of some of the Philippines, so we get less of the great swell which
has been rolling down from the north-east, and of the gale which blows
during this monsoon down the channel that separates the island of
Formosa from the Philippines as through a funnel.

_Manila. - January 26th, Eight A.M._ - I sent off a few lines to you
yesterday, to tell you of my very inopportune arrival off this town,
at a moment when all the world, functionaries, &c., are on tiptoe
expecting a new Captain-General to make his appearance at any hour.
However, Castilian hospitality is not to be taken in default, and at 4
P.M. we landed with great ceremony, and after being conducted to the
palace, and exchanging a few glances with the acting Governor, who
cannot speak a word of any language known to me, I was shown a
magnificent suite of apartments destined for me and my following, and
then conveyed for a drive in one of the carriages-and-four (_vide_ Sir
J. Bowring's book), escorted by a guard of lancers. It is very curious
to see a state of things so different from ours. Such a number of
troops; gens-d'armes on horseback; not a person meeting us (the
Governor-General was with me) who did not take off his hat. At dinner
I sat next the Admiral, who also speaks nothing but Spanish; so we
passed our time in looking at each other unutterable things.

[Sidenote: Churches.]

_Ten A.M._ - I have just got rid of my uniform, in which I thought it
proper to attire myself in order to receive all the officers, naval
and military, who came at nine o'clock to pay their respects. I had
strolled out much earlier _incognito_, and wandered into several
churches. They abound here, as do monks of all orders. The decorations
seemed tinselly enough, but _there_ was the Catholic ritual, with its
sublime suggestions and trivial forms, repeating itself under the
equator in the extreme East, as it repeats itself at Paris or Madrid,
and under Arctic or Antarctic circles. And _here_, as _there_, at
these early morning services, were a few solitary women assisting;
some of them commonplace-looking enough, but others, no doubt, with a
load of troubles to deposit at the altar, or in the ear of the monk in
the box, heavy enough to furnish the burden of many such romances as
those which thrill the public sensibilities in our days. After all,
when the horrors which have brought about the result are past and
forgotten, there _is_ something gained by that truculent Spanish
system which forces the faith upon all who come within its reach.
_Fais-toi chrétienner, ou je t'arrache l'âme_, as Charlemagne (not a
Spaniard, by the way, so there my illustration halts) said to his
heathen enemies. There is something, I say, gained by it when the
origin is forgotten, because the bond of a common creed _does_ do a
little towards drawing these different races together. They are not
separated from each other by that impassable barrier of mutual
contempt, suspicion, and antipathy, which alienates us from the
unhappy natives in those lands where we settle ourselves among
inferior orders of men. An administrative net of a not very flexible
nature encloses all, and keeps each member of the body politic pretty
closely to the post allotted to him; but the belief in a common
humanity, drawn perhaps rather from the traditions of the early, than
from the practice of the modern church, runs like a silken thread
through the iron tissue. One feels a little softened and sublimated
when one passes from Hong-Kong, where the devil is worshipped in his
naked deformity, to this place where he displays at least some of the
feathers which he wore before he fell. So you must pardon me, if my
letter reflects in some measure the phase through which my mind is

[Sidenote: State of the Island.]

I found next me at breakfast the Chief of the _Secrétariat_, an
intelligent man, speaking French. He confirmed a good many of the
impressions which my own observations had led me to form respecting
the state of affairs here. The army is composed of natives; officers
and non-commissioned officers, Spanish. The artillery, or a portion of
it, also Spanish. The native Indians pay a capitation tax of $1 a
head; half-castes double; Chinese $50, $30, or $12. As usual, my poor
Chinamen are hated and squeezed. They are not obliged to become
Catholics, but the native Indian women can/will not marry them
unless they are, and they are not allowed to make public profession of
any other religion.... After breakfast came in an English merchant,
who made the passage from Suez to Singapore with me in 1857. He says
foreigners are very well treated here, but they have some difficulties
about customs duties, which I have asked him to state in writing to
me, that I may say a word about them if occasion offers. The greater
part of the trade here is in English hands.

[Sidenote: Indian women.]

To pass from the higher thoughts which suggested themselves when I
visited the churches this morning, I may tell you that I saw some of
the devout Indian women when they left the churches on their return.
They were generally very plain, to say the least of it. Round their
waists and over their under-dress they pass a piece of silk, which is
wrapped tight round the person. The result is as nearly as possible
the opposite to the effect produced by a crinoline.

[Sidenote: Cigar making.]

I have returned from a very hot drive to visit a sugar refinery and a
cigar manufactory. I saw little to interest at the former, except the
process of making chocolate by mixing cocoa, cinnamon, and sugar. At
the latter, some 8,000 girls were employed, not very pretty, but
cheerful-looking. A skilful worker can make 200 a day, so that these
young ladies can poison mankind to the tune of 1,600,000 cigars a day.

[Sidenote: The cathedral.]

_Sunday, January 27th. - Ten A.M._ - In my early morning's walk I again
visited the churches, which were in greater activity than yesterday.
In the cathedral I came in for a sermon which began 'Illustrissimo
Señor' so I suppose the Archbishop was present, and probably had me in
his eye. I could understand very little, so I did not stay it out. It
was delivered without notes (having evidently been learnt by heart),
in rather a monotonous way; with a sort of little action, all confined
to a slight movement of the hands and flipping of the fingers.... The
Archbishop is, I am told, very bigoted. He did not come to dinner
yesterday (a grand full-dress dinner given in my honour), and some say
it was because of my being a heretic. I take it I was in error
yesterday in speaking of the Spanish system of compelling conformity
of belief as necessarily beginning in harshness. I fancy the monks
have won over the simple Indians here to a great extent by gentle
methods. They protect them, and manage their affairs, and know all
their secrets through the confessional, and amuse them with no end of
feast-days, and gewgaws, and puerile ceremonies. The natives seem to
have a great deal of our dear old French Canadian _habitans_ about
them, only in a more sublime stage of infantine simplicity.

[Sidenote: A pueblo.]

_January 28th._ - I drove this morning to a village (_pueblo_) about
seven miles off, starting at 5.30. The weather nice and cool. The
country very rich. The cottages of bamboo and leaves, and all raised
on bamboo posts of about ten feet in height, seemed very comfortable.
I never saw a more cheerful-looking rural population. All nicely and
modestly dressed. The women completely emancipated from all eastern
seclusion. I visited in this _pueblo_ another great cigar manufactory;
8,000 girls employed. I must say that this colony appears to be a
great success, as far as the natives are concerned, and I almost
regret that I am not going to see something more of the interior.
Crealock has been through the barracks, which he says are in admirable
condition. The native soldiers appear to be very well treated. We
dined yesterday with the Admiral. Just before we set out for this
dinner, a procession was announced, and I went to the balcony to see
it. The students of a college, some 350 in number, were escorting
about two spangled and sparkling images of the Virgin, and a variety
of flags. Each carried a lighted torch, and they lined both sides of
the road, the interval between their rows being occupied by the
images, three or four bands of music, the flags, &c. As all the bands
played at once, and as loud as they possibly could, the noise was
tremendous, and the cathedral bell helped, by tolling its deepest
tone as the procession passed. These processions are the great
religious stimulant here, and they form another point of resemblance
with the French part of Canada.

After little more than three days' stay among the Spaniards of Luzon, he
embarked again on the 29th on board the 'Ferooz,' and passing by Sarawak
and the north-west coast of Borneo, crossed the Line to visit the Dutch
settlement of Java.

[Sidenote: Crossing the Line.]

_February 6th_. - A fine morning, and we are going through the Gaspar
Strait in about 2° 30' south, not very far from where Lord Amherst was
wrecked in the 'Alceste.' We anchored again last night, but in a calm.
Yesterday morning Neptune made his appearance, and those of us who had
not passed the Line had to pay the penalty. I compounded for his
claims on me, and the crew had a good lark in shaving with tar and
ducking some other novices. We are now in mid-summer, having passed at
a bound from mid-winter. There is little difference, however, in these
latitudes, between one part of the year and another. The principal
difference consists in the rainy and dry seasons, and as near the Line
as this there is, I suppose, always more or less rain. _Two P.M._ - I
went on deck this morning at eight, after writing, to discover why we
were stopping, and I found that a squall had closed in all around us,
and hid the land. It lasted only about an hour, when we set off again,
passing through a great many little islets all covered with trees, so
different from the barren Pulo Sapata and Pulo Condor, which we pass
on the route between Singapore and Hong-Kong! The weather is
delicious, and I am confirmed in my doctrine, that if you are
compelled to be in or in the vicinity of the Tropics, the nearer the
Line the better. You have not the interminably long summer days which
you have at more remote points, and constant showers veil the sun and
cool the air. This makes Singapore comparatively so bearable, and I
suppose Sarawak has some of the same advantages.

[Sidenote: Java.]
[Sidenote: Residence of the Governor-General.]

_Java. - February 8th. Three P.M._ - Here I am looking out from my
window upon a piece of park-like scenery, - a sheet of water, drooping
trees, and deer feeding among them. The only drawback is that it is
raining, and this is not an unqualified evil, because the rain cools
the air. The place I am at is the residence of the Governor-General of
Java (or of the Indies, I believe his title is), about forty miles
from Batavia, the chief town, at which I landed yesterday, at 5 P.M.,
with much honour in the way of salutes, &c. We were conveyed in
carriages-and-six, with an escort, to the Governor's town palace,
which I was told to consider placed at my disposal. It consists
chiefly of a very spacious room on the ground-floor, paved in marble,
and looking very brilliant, lit up with wax candles in chandeliers.
Some of the high officials came to dinner, and we were waited on by
black servants in state liveries and bare feet, who moved noiselessly
over the marble floor. The original town of Batavia is unhealthy for
Europeans, so they live in villas which extend from the town for some
miles, on both sides of the main road into the interior. The villas
looked very nice, and white women seemed to abound in them. It was
hinted to me that the Governor-General would like to see me at his
residence, so I set out for this place at about seven this morning,
performing thirty-six miles in two hours and fifty minutes, in a
comfortable carriage drawn by six ponies, changed every five miles. I
need hardly say that we always went at full gallop. The country was
not very interesting, being chiefly low and rice-bearing, nor did I
see the cheerful firm-looking maidens who struck me so much at Manila.
This island is _exploité_ entirely for the Government and dominant
race, and with no little success, for I am told that the surplus
revenue last year was £6,000,000, £4,000,000 of which were remitted to
Holland. I shall end by thinking that we are the worst colonisers in
the Eastern world, as we neither make ourselves rich, nor the governed

[Sidenote: Botanic Garden.]
[Sidenote: Monument to Lady Raffles.]

_February 9th_. - I took a drive at six this morning, and then a walk
through the botanic garden, which is attached to this house and has a
great reputation. I am no judge, as you know, but everything seems in
beautiful order, and it is of great extent. After a light repast I got
a carriage to take me down to a spacious swimming-bath, paved with
marble and shaded by magnificent trees, in which I felt rather tempted
to spend the day. I should mention that, before dinner yesterday, when
the rain slackened, I went into the garden, and was arrested as I
wandered along the paths musingly, by a monument with an English
inscription. It is to the wife of Sir Stamford Raffles, who died here
in 1814, while the colony was in our hands; died _here_, that is, at
Buitenzorg, for this inscription has taught me the name of the place,
which I had not been able to catch before. I see little of my host. We
dined at half-past six; nobody but his staff and daughter and my
rather numerous following, who are not, I fear, all as well dressed as
he approves of; a short _séance_ after dinner, and then to our private
apartments. Today we met in the same stiff way at twelve, for
breakfast. I have not seen a book or a paper in the house, but that

Online LibraryEighth Earl of Elgin JamesLetters and Journals of James, Eighth Earl of Elgin → online text (page 37 of 45)