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remarkable in their way that T would not venture



LANDING IN STATE 17

to put them down had I not credible witnesses to
the veracity of my statements.

The force that was to escort us to the north
had rendezvoused at Shanghai under the orders of
Admiral Hope. It consisted of some twenty vessels,
two of which were transports carrying a strong bat-
talion of marines and a couple of companies of
engineers. The day after our arrival, Mr. Bruce
landed in state, all the boats of the squadron first
forming an avenue through which he passed in the
Admiral's barge, and then falling into procession
after him ; while the ships, anchored in half-moon
order, manned yards and fired an Envoy's salute of
fifteen guns. 1 It was an imposing sight, I thought,
and a proud display of the power of England at
so great a distance from home. Unfortunately, the
Chinese, on whom it was intended to produce a
salutary impression, showed themselves provokingly
indifferent to it. A few coolies loitered by the
landing-place as we stepped out of the boat, but, in
passing along the deserted bund, we could not help
somehow being uncomfortably conscious that to the
leery, imperturbable sons of Han, the whole cere-
mony was mere empty noise and smoke, such as the
turbulent barbarians, in their ignorance, delight in.

1 In due accordance with naval etiquette, our boat's crew stopped
pulling and rested on their oars as somi as the salute began. Mr. Bruce
uncovering at the same time. In my ignorance of such matters I
had never in my life heard a salute fir> d- -I politely followed suit, but
felt very small when my chief growled, in, for him, subdued tones :
" D n you ! Put your hat on ; .it's not for you ! "

VOL. II. K



1 8 RECOLLECTIONS OF A DIPLOMATIST

We took up our quarters at the Consulate,
whence the Consul was unceremoniously dislodged,
and were soon deep in correspondence with the
Imperial Commissioners. These dignitaries were
Kweiliang, Hwashana, Ho-Kwei-Tsing, and Twan-
Ching-Shih the two first the leading negotiators
of the Tien-tsin Treaty. The very fact of our
finding them at Shanghai was of ill-omen, for Mr.
Bruce had wrirten to Kweiliang from Hong-Kong
on May 16, advising him of his intention to proceed
to Peking for the purpose of delivering in person
an autograph letter from his sovereign to the
Emperor of China, and exchanging there, as by
that Treaty provided, the ratifications of the Treaty
of Tien-tsin, at which latter city he requested that
everything might be in readiness for the fitting
reception of himself and his suite, and their trans-
mission to the capital. Three weeks alone divided
us from June 26, on which day, at latest, the rati-
fications had to be exchanged, and yet the very
officials, whose business it was to carry out that
ceremony and attend to our reception, were still
here, hundreds of miles from Peking, and evidently
bent on retarding our visit north, if not hoping to
make us give it up altogether.

The deliberate manner in which they opened np
the correspondence left us in no doubt as to their
intent. They wrote on May 27 that they had been
waiting in the south since the previous autumn,
on the strength of a promise from Lord Elgin that



CHINESE NEGOTIATORS 19

he would return to Shanghai from Canton to dis-
cuss various important questions with them. They
were now ready to discuss those questions with
Mr. Bruce, and hoped he would meet them without
loss of time, "as the period appointed for the ex-
change of the Treaties is very near at hand." On
the 28th they wrote two more letters (Mr. Bruce
found all three communications waiting for him at
Shanghai), in which they began by acknowledging
the receipt of the letter addressed to Kweiliang from
Hong-Kong, and, entirely changing their tone as
to the necessity of ratifying the Treaty within the
specified period, dwelt upon the impossibility of their
reaching Peking as early as Mr. Bruce proposed ;
indeed, " having to travel north by land," they could
not be there under two months, if so soon. " The
exchange of Treaties," they said, " was an affair of
too grave importance to be hurried over." They
then pointed out that nothing would be ready at
Tien-tsin for Mr. Bruce's reception on his arrival
there, and suggested that he should defer his de-
parture from Shanghai for a while, rather than " be
kept waiting at the other place (Tien-tsin) where
after midsummer the heat is excessive." They re-
quested Mr. Bruce, therefore, to name a day for
a conference. Finally, in their third letter, after
repeating that Lord Elgin's promise to return was
the cause of their detention at Shanghai, they
sketched out the points which had been disposed
of by Lord Elgin before leaving China, and those



20 RECOLLECTIONS OF A DIPLOMATIST

that remained to be discussed. It had been agreed
with Lord Elgin, they said, that the visit to Peking
"to exchange courtesies and treaties was excep-
tional," and there was to be no permanent residence
there. The Emperor had been informed of this
decision. Further, " Lord Elgin had been up the
river to Han-Kow for once, but the navigation of
the Yangtse-Kiang was henceforward to be in accor-
dance with former Treaties." Again, as regarded
the right of free circulation in the empire, they
hinted at a system of passports, to be issued by
the local authorities, which would have rendered
the concession absolutely nugatory.

These letters caused Mr. Bruce no little anxiety,
but did not for a moment make him swerve from
the line of conduct he had determined upon. The
experience he had derived from the mission of his
brother authorised but one conclusion, namely, "that
the Chinese Government will not stoop to entertain
a proposition except under pressure of fear, that
while the pressure endures there is no point which
in words it will not concede, and that it will make
good its words in exact proportion as the pressure
is maintained or diminished." l Other motives com-
bined to convince the British Envoy that by firmness
and decision alone he could carry out the objects of
his mission. Trustworthy reports had readied him of

1 These words arc quoted from an able letter by Mr. (afterwards
Sir Thomas) Wade, printed at the time for private circulation. I have
made ample use of it in this sketch of our negotiations, a. - also of the
official correspondence of Mr. Bruce.



THE BRITISH ENVOY INFLEXIBLE 21

warlike preparations in the north, which his pro-
ceeding thither with the considerable force at his
command was the only means of checking. Nor
was it less essential that he should dispel the evil
effects of Lord Elgin's waiving the point of per-
manent residence at Peking and accepting instead
the offer of a journey up the Yangtse. That the
Commissioners had been encouraged by this un-
fortunate concession was now proved by their hint-
ing their readiness to settle at once the indemnity
due to us under the Treaty for our losses at Canton,
provided we would altogether abandon the visit to
Peking. This overture showed once more how
firmly rooted was their belief that we were
always to be bribed by commercial or pecuniary
advantages. Moved by all these considerations, Mr.
Bruce resolved to cut short the attempts of the
Commissioners by declining to discuss with them
a Treaty which he had come to see executed and not
discussed. Accordingly, he wrote to them on June 8
that he could not allow the period fixed for the ex-
change of the ratifications to be postponed. " His
resolution to proceed to Peking without delay was,"
he told them, "inflexible" ; he must therefore posi-
tively decline any interview with them at Shanghai ;
and he further warned them " that he was prepared
to insist on a reception befitting the dignity of the
nation he represented, and that any failure in this
respect would be attended with the most serious
consequences to the Imperial Government." Not



22 RECOLLECTIONS OF A DIPLOMATIST

receiving an immediate reply, he wrote again on the
iith, suggesting that the Commissioners, if their
presence at Peking was, as they stated, necessary,
might still keep their time by employing one of
the Chinese steamers lying in Shanghai harbour to
take them north ; he also gave them notice that
Admiral Hope was proceeding with his squadron to
the mouth of the Pei-ho to announce the approach
of himself and the French Minister.

Thereupon came what was outwardly a complete
and abject surrender. Mr. Bruce' s letter of June 8,
wrote the Commissioners on the 1 2th, had been for-
warded by post and would reach Peking within nine
days ; so that it might be assumed that, by the time
Mr. Bruce and his French and American colleagues
arrived at Tien-tsin, some high officer, whom the
Commissioners had urged the Emperor to depute,
would be there to receive and escort them to the
capital, where the exchange of Treaties would be
effected by the time fixed for that purpose. They
(the Commissioners) dared not themselves go north
by steamer without orders, but would hasten back
post-haste by land " in obedience to the Emperor's
commands." Mr. Bruce need feel no anxiety as to
the intention of the Imperial Government to observe
and carry out the Treaty, but they hoped that on his
arrival at the mouth of the Tien-tsin River (the
Pei-ho) his vessels might be anchored outside the
bar, and that he would proceed to the capital with-
out much luggage and with a moderate retinue.



EASTERN DUPLICITY 23

"As he came speaking peace, his treatment by the
Government of China could not fail to be in every
way most courteous."

Events soon showed that this conciliatory letter
was a perfect specimen of Eastern duplicity. When
writing it, the Commissioners, of course, well knew
that at Peking it had been resolved to dispute our
passage to Tien-tsin if necessary by force ; yet they
allowed no such intention to appear. It is, there-
fore, not unfair to assume that their instructions
were to keep, if possible, the British Envoy nego-
tiating at Shanghai, and, if he obdurately persisted
in going north, on no account to warn him of any
peril, but to let him run the risk of a collision
without preparing him for it ; thus reserving to the
Imperial Government, if defeated in the attempt to
keep us out of the river, the power to cast the
blame of such collision on its local representa-
tives. But, however satisfactory the language of
the Commissioners might at first sight appear, their
letter contained no allusion to the interview with
the Emperor and the presentation of the letter of
credence to him.

"I gather from this omission " (wrote Mr. Bruce
to Lord Malmesbury on June 14) " that the Emperor
has not instructed them on this material point, and
as the question of ceremonial ought in my opinion
to be settled before we leave Tien-tsin for Peking,
it is clear that it could not have been discussed
here, involving, as it does, the necessity of taking



24 RECOLLECTIONS OF A DIPLOMATIST

the pleasure of the Emperor upon it, without the
risk of losing the season altogether for the visit to
Peking. I must observe " (he added), " that in order
to effect the presentation in person of credentials
to the Emperor, and to deter the Chinese from their
hitherto invariable practice of subjecting foreign
Envoys to petty slights and insults which lower
them and the Governments they represent in the
eyes of the people, I must succeed in inspiring the
Emperor and his counsellors with a conviction that
what I have once demanded I will exact, and with a
wholesome dread of my readiness and power to resort
to force if my demands are not complied with."

Mr. Bruce, in fact, felt that this audience ques-
tion was so odious and indeed abhorrent to the
Chinese Court that even the minutest details con-
nected with it must lead to a battle-royal, in which
nothing but dire necessity would make that Court
give way. The history of his brother's negotiations
the year before had shown that Tien-tsin was the only
point whence that Court could be coerced effectually.
For that city, therefore, past experience, Lord Mal-
mesbury's instructions, the paramount importance of
the place as the key, so to speak, of the Imperial
presence-chamber and lastly the assurances of the
Commissioners themselves all combined to make
the British Envoy shape his course.



CHAPTER XV

THE PEI-HO DISASTER

ON the morning of June 15, we once more went
on board the Magicienne, and dropped down the
river to Woosung, where we remained at anchor
till the following morning, waiting for the Admiral's
tender, the Coromandel, that was eventually to take
us up the Pei-ho to Tien-tsin. We were all glad
to leave Shanghai, where we had had a week of
wretchedly wet weather, and to be fairly started for
the Chinese capital. Early on the i6th we weighed
anchor, with the Coromandel in tow, and the Duch-
ayla in company with us. The Poivhattan, with
the American Minister, had preceded us on its way
north a few days before. The weather continued
damp and foggy, and the sea very rough, till the
i gth, when it brightened again with a fresh wind,
and a sparkle on the tumbling waves. On the fore-
noon of the 2Oth we were abreast of the island of
Sha-lui-tien, some thirty miles from the mouth of
the Pei-ho, where by agreement we were to meet
the squadron that had preceded us.

Not a vessel was to be seen far and wide, so,
still in company with the Frenchman, we shaped
our course direct for the Pei-ho River. At 4 P.M. we



26 RECOLLECTIONS OF A DIPLOMATIST

steamed into the centre of our ships, which, together
with the American frigate, lay at anchor some seven
or eight miles from the Taku forts. A boat from
the Chesapeake flag-ship at once came alongside,
with a note from Admiral Hope to say that "he
had found the forts " (destroyed by us the previous
year) " rebuilt, and the river staked, but that he had
been promised that the stakes would be removed by
that evening." Presently the Admiral himself came
on board with a full account of his proceedings.
Having left Shanghai on the iith, he had reached
the rendezvous at Sha-lui-tien on the i6th, but, in
consequence of stress of weather and bad anchorage,
had found it necessary to proceed the next day to
the Pei-ho. He had with him the Fury and two
gun-boats, and after anchoring outside the bar,
had at once, as agreed with Mr. Bruce, sent an
officer on shore, with a competent interpreter, to
announce the approach of the English and French
Envoys, and to inquire what measures had been
taken for their reception.

" These gentlemen found the river mouth barred,
and all but closed, by a series of formidable booms
and rafts ; the works, demolished last year, rebuilt and
extended ; but, strange to say, no one to communi-
cate with but some rudely armed peasants who main-
tained that there was no authority, civil or military,
nearer than Tien-tsin ; also that no authority had
anything to say to the defences of which they were
in charge; these were purely the affair of the people,



OFF TAKU 27

and devised by them for their protection against
rebels and pirates."

Admiral Hope had then sent again to desire that
the obstacles might be removed within three days,
and had this time received an assurance that a
passage would be cleared by that time. The
authorities at Tien-tsin, he was likewise told, had
been apprised of the arrival of the squadron, the
whole of which had joined the flag on the i8th,
and had anchored where we found them. The
Admiral went on to tell us that he had just re-
turned from the river, whither he had been to see
for himself what had been done towards clearing a
passage. He had crossed the bar in a gun-boat and
had sent on shore a letter to the Tau-tai (Prefect)
of Tien-tsin, requesting that " as provisions were
needed by the squadron, officers and men might
be free to land in such numbers as would not be
inconvenient to the inhabitants of Taku." The
officer charged with this missive found that the
obstacles, instead of being removed, were in course
of completion. He was again unable to communi-
cate with any person who would own to an official
character or employment, and was at last obliged
to leave the Admiral's letter with peasants on the
beach, who denied that any promise had been given
to clear the passage, declared that it would take a
month to do so, and once more affirmed that there
were no officials near the spot.

1 Wade's narrative, before mentioned.



28 RECOLLECTIONS OF A DIPLOMATIST

The Admiral's narrative gave rise to much
anxious debating in the cabin of the Magicienne
that evening, and indeed it must be allowed that
the condition of affairs it described could not well
be more unsatisfactory. The river our highway to
Peking was blocked up ; contrary to the assurances
of Kweiliang, there was no one to receive us or to
attend to our wants ; and the authorities, whose
existence we could not doubt, met our attempts to
communicate by sedulous concealment, and left us
to seek information from fishermen and peasants.
On one point there could be no hesitation : it would
not do to put up with any more Chinese trifling.

The anchorage off the Pei-ho, apart from the
mournful recollection I have naturally preserved of
it, appeared to me detestable in every way. Shallow
waters and the boisterous winds of the Gulf of
Pechili made it uncomfortable for even the most
seasoned of sailors, while nothing could be more
wearisome to the eye than its wide expanse of
chopping seas of a dirty, bilious green, unrelieved
by the straight, grey line of flat coast that just
marked the horizon and was broken at one single
point by the mean-looking fortifications of Taku,
and the masts of the junks that lay behind them
in the first bend of the river. The dreary, shabby
prospect would have been unendurable, had not our
gaze eagerly stretched far beyond it and taken in,
as it were, the huge, shadowy metropolis which we
then believed to be our certain goal, and which



BLIND CONFIDENCE 29

for one of us at least (poor de Normann) reserved
martyrdom and an untimely grave. I find it diffi-
cult, after such a repulse as that which awaited us,
to realise the blind confidence with which we were
all imbued at this time. Nevertheless, I believe
that if the whole force had been canvassed no one
would have been found in it who doubted for a
moment our ability to overcome with ease any
opposition that might be offered by the faithless
Government of Peking. Personally I had some
time before had a vague presentiment that serious
resistance was intended. Shortly before we left
Shanghai, I remember discussing the point with Mr.
Bruce, and taking upon myself to suggest that it
might be well to make assurance doubly sure by
summoning up the Royals from Hong-Kong, and,
if necessary, applying to India for further reinforce-
ments. Those, however, who knew most of Chinese
warfare and our squadron was full of such had
but one dread, namely, that no real stand would
be made, and they would thus be disappointed of a
brush with the insidious foe.

On the 2 ist it was resolved to wait no longer,
and a formal letter was addressed to the Admiral
requesting him, in the joint names of the French
and British Envoys, to clear the passage for their
progress up the river. The council of war at which
this determination was come to was held under
adverse circumstances, the sea running so high as
to make communication with the flag-ship and the



30 RECOLLECTIONS OF A DIPLOMATIST

French corvette a matter of difficulty. Next day
all boat communication became impossible, but the
following morning (Thursday the 23rd) the weather
moderated, and our eyes were gladdened by sight of
the gun-boats coming out of the mouth of the river,
where they had been engaged in preparations for
the final move. A reconnaissance unfortunately,
as it proved, too slight a one had been made, and
had shown the obstacles placed in the river to be
more formidable than had been supposed. Not only
was the channel full of iron stakes, but several
heavy booms, chained together and made into a
huge raft by intermediate pieces of timber, were
laid across from side to side. At the same time the
embrasures in the forts were covered with matting,
and not a soul could be seen stirring in the works.
Indeed, but for the peaceful junks anchored higher
up, it might well have been believed that, at sight
of the barbarian vessels, the whole country had risen
in terror and fled. Yet behind these silent walls
lay the flower of the Tartar army, under the orders
of Sangkolinsin, a Mongol prince of the blood, of
high renown, who was the hope and mainstay of the
war party at Peking.

The Admiral now came on board and told us
that all his measures had been taken, and he was
ready to force a passage the next day. At this junc-
ture it was that the American Minister, who had
hitherto taken no part in our councils, informed Mr.
Bruce and M. de Bourboulon that he had resolved



THE DIE CAST 31

to make a demand for passage similar to theirs,
and that, if met with a refusal, he would join them
in the attack. He begged, therefore, that operations
might be delayed another day to enable him to make
the attempt. Our chief was too elated at the pros-
pect of seeing the three flags combined not to accede
at once to this request, and the attack was therefore
postponed to the 25th. Mr. Ward's efforts to com-
municate with any one in authority failed like all
those that had preceded it. He went over the bar
with Commodore Tatnall in his tender, the Tocy-
wan, but his interpreter found no one but a militia-
man for such he represented himself to be who,
however, stated that any attempt to remove the
booms would at once be the signal of fire from the
forts. The Toey-ivan ran aground in the river and
could not be got off, and thus the American Minister
was prevented from conveying any intimation of this
significant threat to his colleagues, and remained a
forced, but by no means indifferent, spectator of the
action that ensued. 1

The die was now cast, and we were surrounded
by the din and bustle of warlike preparation. As
for us peaceful diplomatists, our excitement rose to
fever-heat, and we begged to be allowed to go on
board one of the light draught vessels that were to
move up the river a request which, fortunately for

1 It may, I think, be fairly doubted whether ,-ucli a threat, uttered
by a person of no position or 'authority, would, at this stau'e ' t" the
proceedings, have in any way deterred the British and French KIIV..VS
from asserting their right to a passage, if needs be, by l\>rce.



32 RECOLLECTIONS OF A DIPLOMATIST

us, as it afterwards turned out, the Admiral smilingly
but firmly refused to grant. By noon of the 24th
our frigate had become a solitude, the whole avail-
able force of combatants on board (115 officers
and men) having embarked with Vansittart in big
launches which the gun-boats took in tow. We
had never seen our captain in such high feather
before. He had been in weak health for some time
from the effects of China fever, but as soon as he
sniffed powder in the air he became another man,
and trod his deck with the gaiety of a middy told off
on his first boating expedition, rather than the gravity
of a post-captain inured to battle and renowned
throughout the service for his cool daring. His
high spirits spread all through the crew, and
certainly each man of them, as he went over the
ship's side that morning in full fighting trim, seemed
flushed with that " innate warlike passion " which
Kinglake, with more eloquence than modesty, claims
as " the gift of high Heaven " to our " chosen
race."

Time hung heavily on our hands the rest of that
day. When we had done watching our contingent
and those from the other ships being towed by the
puffing and snorting gun-boats over the distance of
eight or nine miles that divided onr larger vessels
from the river mouth, we could do nothing but
wander restlessly from cabin to cabin, making
ineffectual attempts at conversation, and equally
ineffectual ones to read or to keep silent, KO strung



A PETTY MANDARIN 33

up were our nerves. Mr. Bruce, Wade, and I broke
the tedium of the afternoon by a visit to the Ameri-
can frigate Poivhattan, where we found officers and
crew chafing at neutrality, and eagerly hoping that
their flag too might be committed to action. They
were of course, like ourselves, entirely unaware of
the mishap to the Toey-wan which had alone pre-
vented their Minister from throwing in his lot with
ours. At half-past ten that night, as we were having


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