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First Opium War

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The First Opium War (第一次鴉片戰爭), also known as the Opium War or the Anglo-Chinese War, was a series of military engagements fought between the United Kingdom and the Qing dynasty over conflicting viewpoints on diplomatic relations, trade, and the administration of justice in China.[5]

First Opium War
Part of the Opium Wars
Destroying Chinese war junks, by E. Duncan (1843).jpg
The East India Company steamship Nemesis (right background) destroying Chinese war junks during the Second Battle of Chuenpi, 7 January 1841
Date 3 November 1839 – 29 August 1842[1]
(2 years, 9 months, 3 weeks and 5 days)
Location China
Result British victory, Treaty of Nanking
Territorial
changes
Hong Kong Island ceded to Britain
Belligerents

 United Kingdom

Qing China
Commanders and leaders
Strength

19,000+ troops:[2]

37 ships:[2]

200,000 Manchu Eight Banners and Han Green Standard
Casualties and losses
69 killed in battle[2]
451 wounded[2]
Nearly 300 executed or died in captivity in Formosa
18,000–20,000 killed and wounded2 (est.)[2]

1 Comprising 5 troop ships, 3 brigs, 2 steamers, 1 survey vessel, and 1 hospital ship.

2 Casualties include Manchu bannermen and their families who committed mass suicide at the Battle of Chapu and Battle of Chinkiang.[3][4]

In the 17th and 18th centuries demand for Chinese goods (particularly silk, porcelain, and tea) in Europe created a trade imbalance between Qing Imperial China and Great Britain. European silver flowed into China through the Canton System, which confined incoming foreign trade to Canton and the Chinese merchants of the Thirteen Factories. To counter this imbalance, the British East India Company began to auction opium grown in India to independent foreign traders in exchange for silver, and in doing so strengthened its trading influence in Asia. The opium was transported to the Chinese coast where local middlemen made massive profits selling the drug inside China. The influx of narcotics reversed the Chinese trade surplus, drained the economy of silver, and increased the numbers of opium addicts inside the country, outcomes that worried Chinese officials.

In 1839 the Daoguang Emperor, rejecting proposals to legalise and tax opium, appointed viceroy Lin Zexu to solve the problem by banning the opium trade. Lin confiscated around 20,000 chests of opium (approximately 1210 tons or 2.66 million pounds) without offering compensation and ordered a blockade of foreign trade in Canton.[6] The British government, although not officially denying China's right to control imports of the drug, objected to this unexpected seizure and dispatched a military force to China. In the ensuing conflict the Royal Navy used its naval and gunnery power to inflict a series of decisive defeats on the Chinese Empire,[5] a tactic later referred to as gunboat diplomacy.

In 1842 the Qing Dynasty was forced to sign the Treaty of Nanking—the first of what the Chinese later called the unequal treaties—which granted an indemnity and extraterritoriality to Britain, opened five treaty ports to foreign merchants, and ceded Hong Kong Island to the British Empire. The failure of the treaty to satisfy British goals of improved trade and diplomatic relations led to the Second Opium War (1856–60), and the Qing defeat resulted in social unrest within China.[7] In China, the war is considered the beginning of modern Chinese history.[8]

Contents

BackgroundEdit

 
View of Canton with merchant ship of the Dutch East India Company, c. 1665

Establishment of tradeEdit

 
View of the European factories in Canton

Direct maritime trade between Europe and China began in 1557 when the Portuguese leased an outpost at Macau. Other European nations soon followed the Portuguese lead, inserting themselves into the existing Asian maritime trade network to compete with Arab, Chinese, Indian, and Japanese traders in intra-regional trade.[9] After the Spanish conquest of the Philippines the exchange of goods between China and Europe accelerated dramatically. From 1565 on, the Manila Galleons brought silver into the Asian trade network from mines in South America.[10] China was the primary destination for the precious metals, as the imperial government mandated that Chinese goods could only be exported in exchange for silver bullion.[11][12]

British ships began to appear sporadically around the coasts of China from 1635 on; without establishing formal relations through the tributary system, British merchants were allowed to trade at the ports of Zhoushan and Xiamen in addition to Guangzhou.[13] Official British trade was conducted through the auspices of the British East India Company, which held a royal charter for trade with the Far East. The East India Company gradually came to dominate Sino-European trade from its position in India and due to the strength of the Royal Navy.[14]

Trade benefited after the newly-risen Qing dynasty relaxed maritime trade restrictions in the 1680s. Taiwan came under Qing control in 1683 and rhetoric regarding the "tributary status" of Europeans was muted.[13] Guangzhou (known as Canton to Europeans) became the port of preference for incoming foreign trade. Ships did try to call at other ports, but these locations could not match the benefits of Guangzhou's geographic position at the mouth of the Pearl River trade network, nor did they have Guangzhou's long experience in balancing the demands of Beijing with those of Chinese and foreign merchants.[15] From 1700 onward Canton was the center of maritime trade with China, and this market process became known as the "Canton System".[15] From the systems' inception in 1757, trading in China was extremely lucrative for European and Chinese merchants alike as goods such as tea, porcelain, and silk were valued highly enough in Europe to justify the expenses of traveling to Asia. However, the system was highly regulated by the Qing government. Foreign traders were only permitted to do business through a body of Chinese merchants known as the Cohong and were forbidden to learn Chinese. Foreigners could only live in one of the Thirteen Factories and were not allowed to enter or trade in any other part of China, a policy the Qing called the Yī kŏu tōngshāng (口通商), or the "Single port commerce system". Only low level government officials could be dealt with, and the imperial court could not be lobbied for any reason excepting official diplomatic missions.[16] The Imperial laws that upheld the system were collectively known as the Prevention Barbarian Ordinances (防范外夷規條.)[17]

Despite restrictions, silk and porcelain continued to drive trade through their popularity in the Europe, and an insatiable demand for Chinese tea existed in Britain. These market forces resulted in a chronic trade deficit for European governments, who were forced to risk silver shortages in their domestic economies to supply the needs of their merchants in Asia (who as private enterprises still turned a profit by selling valuable Chinese goods to consumers in Europe.)[17][18] From the mid-17th century onward around 28 million kilograms of silver were received by China, principally from European powers, in exchange for Chinese products.[19]

 
Chinese opium smokers

Trade philosophy and policyEdit

Economic and social innovation led to a change in the parameters of Sino-European trade.[20] Arguments by Adam Smith and other economic theorists caused academic belief in mercantilism to decline in Britain.[21][22] During the Industrial Revolution Britain used its naval power to spread a broadly liberal economic model encompassing open markets and relatively barrier free international trade, a policy in line with the teachings of smithian economics.[22] This stance on trade was intended to open foreign markets to the resources of Britain's colonies, as well as provide the British public with greater access to consumer goods.[22]

Qing China followed a Confucian-Modernist economic philosophy that called for strict government intervention in industry for the sake of preserving societal stability. While the Qing state was not explicitly anti-trade, a perceived lack of need for imports limited pressure on the government to open further ports to international trade.[23] Qing China's rigid merchant hierarchy also blocked efforts to open ports to foreign ships and businesses.[24] Chinese merchants in the interior wanted to avoid market fluctuations caused by importing foreign goods that would compete with domestic production, while the Hong houses of Canton profited greatly by keeping their city the only entry point for foreign products.[23][25][24]

Continued economic expansion in 17th and 18th century Europe increased the European demand for precious metals, raising prices and reducing the supply of bullion available for trade in China. The British Great Recoinage of 1816 coupled with the adoption of the gold standard in 1821 resulted in the empire minting silver shillings, further reducing the availability of silver for trade in Asia.[20] The decline in silver supplies sapped the ability of European merchants to purchase Chinese goods, which remained in high demand. Merchants were no longer able to sustain the China trade purely through profits made by selling Chinese goods in the west and were forced to take bullion out of circulation in Europe to buy goods in China.[9] This angered governments and fostered a great deal of animosity towards the Chinese.[26][18] Despite tensions, trade between China and Europe grew by an estimated 4% annually in the years leading up to the start of the opium trade.[27]

The Chinese economy was unaffected by fluctuation in silver prices, as China was able to import silver from Japan to stabilize its money supply.[11] European goods remained in low demand in China, ensuring a trade surplus with European nations.[28]

At the turn of the 18th-century countries such as Great Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Russia, and the United States began to seek additional trading rights in China.[29] Foremost among the concerns of the western nations was the end of the Canton System and the opening of China's vast consumer markets to trade. Britain in particular was keen on reducing its trade deficit, as the empire's implementation of the gold standard forced it to purchase silver from continental Europe and Mexico to satisfy domestic demand and British traders in China.[30] The perpetual expenditure of British bullion on Chinese products limited the amount of currency in British circulation, weakening the domestic economy, preventing economic growth and causing deflation. Attempts by a British embassy (led by Macartney in 1793), a Dutch mission (under Van Braam in 1794), Russia's Golovkin in 1805 and the British again (Amherst in 1816) to negotiate increased access to the Chinese market were all vetoed by successive Qing Emperors.[18] Upon his meeting the Jiaqing Emperor in 1816, Amherst refused to perform the traditional kowtow, an act that the Qing saw as a severe breach of etiquette. Amherst and his party were expelled from China, a diplomatic rebuke that angered the British East India Company.[31]

Opium trade expansionEdit

At the turn of the 18th century the British realised they could reduce the trade deficit by counter-trading in narcotic opium.[26] The Qing administration initially tolerated opium importation because it created an indirect tax on Chinese subjects; increasing the silver supply available to foreign merchants through the sale of opium encouraged Europeans to spend more money on Chinese goods. This policy allowed the British to double tea exports from China to England, thereby profiting the Qing monopoly on tea exports held by the imperial treasury and its agents in Canton.[32]

 
Opium ships at Lintin, China, 1824

The opium sold was produced in the traditionally cotton-growing regions of India under British East India Company monopoly in Bengal. Opium was also produced and traded in the Princely states of Malwa, which remained outside the company's direct control. Both areas had been hard hit by the introduction of factory-produced cotton cloth, which used cotton grown in Egypt or the American South. The opium was auctioned in Calcutta and from there shipped abroad. Opium as a medicinal ingredient was documented in texts as early as the Tang dynasty, but its recreational use was limited and there were laws against its abuse.

 
East India Company warehouse stocked with opium.

Limited British sales of opium began in 1781, with exports to China increasing as the East India Company solidified its control over India. East India Company ships brought their cargoes to islands off the coast, especially Lintin Island, where Chinese traders with fast and well-armed small boats took the goods inland for distribution, paying for them with silver. In the early 19th century American merchants joined the trade and began to introduce opium from Turkey into the Chinese market — this was of lesser quality but cheaper to produce, and the resulting competition among British and American merchants drove down the price of opium, leading to an increase in the availability of the drug for Chinese consumers.[28] The demand for opium rose rapidly and was so profitable in the China that Chinese opium merchants (who, unlike European merchants, could legally sell goods in the Chinese interior) began to seek out more suppliers for the drug. The resulting shortage in supply drew more European merchants into the increasingly lucrative opium trade to meet the Chinese demand. In the words of one trading house agent, "[Opium] it is like gold. I can sell it anytime."[33] From 1804 to 1820, a period when the Qing treasury needed to finance the suppression of rebellions, the flow of money gradually reversed, and Chinese merchants were soon exporting silver to pay for opium rather than Europeans paying for Chinese goods with the precious metal.[34] European and American ships were able to arrive in Canton with their holds filled with opium, sell their cargo, use the proceeds to buy Chinese goods, and turn a profit in the form of silver bullion.[11] This silver would then be used to acquire further goods in China or shipped back to Europe.[17] While opium remain the most profitable good to trade with China, foreign merchants began to export other cargoes, such as machine-spun cotton cloth, ginseng, fur, clocks, and tools. However, these goods never reached the same level of importance as narcotics, nor were they as lucrative.[35][36]

 
Graph showing the increase in Chinese opium imports.

The Qing imperial court debated whether or how to end the opium trade, but their efforts to curtail opium abuse were complicated by local officials (including the Governor-general of Canton) and the Hongs, who profited greatly from the bribes and taxes involved in the narcotics trade.[37] Early efforts by Qing officials to curb opium imports through regulations on consumption resulted in an increase in drug smuggling by European traders. In 1810 the Daoguang Emperor issued an edict concerning the matter, declaring,

Opium has a harm. Opium is a poison, undermining our good customs and morality. Its use is prohibited by law. Now the commoner, Yang, dares to bring it into the Forbidden City. Indeed, he flouts the law! However, recently the purchasers, eaters, and consumers of opium have become numerous. Deceitful merchants buy and sell it to gain profit. The customs house at the Ch'ung-wen Gate was originally set up to supervise the collection of imports (it had no responsibility with regard to opium smuggling). If we confine our search for opium to the seaports, we fear the search will not be sufficiently thorough. We should also order the general commandant of the police and police- censors at the five gates to prohibit opium and to search for it at all gates. If they capture any violators, they should immediately punish them and should destroy the opium at once. As to Kwangtung [Guangdong] and Fukien [Fujian], the provinces from which opium comes, we order their viceroys, governors, and superintendents of the maritime customs to conduct a thorough search for opium, and cut off its supply. They should in no ways consider this order a dead letter and allow opium to be smuggled out![38]

A significant development came in 1834 when reformers in England who advocated free trade succeeded in ending the monopoly of the British East India Company under the Charter Act of the previous year. This shift in trade policy opened the British China trade to private entrepreneurs, many of whom joined the highly profitable opium trade.[39]

On the eve of the government crackdown on opium, a Chinese official described the changes in society caused by the drug;

At the beginning, opium smoking was confined to the fops of wealthy families who took up the habit as a form of conspicuous consumption, even they knew that they should not indulge in it to the greatest extreme. Later, people of all social strata—from government officials and members of the gentry to craftsmen, merchants, entertainers, and servants, and even women, Buddhist monks and nuns, and Taoist priests—took up the habit and openly bought and equipped themselves with smoking instruments. Even in the center of our dynasty—the nation’s capital and its surrounding areas—some of the inhabitants have also been contaminated by this dreadful poison.[40]

Napier AffairEdit

In late 1834, to accommodate the revocation of the East India Company's monopoly, the British sent Lord William John Napier to Macau along with John Francis Davis and Sir George Best Robinson, 2nd Baronet as British Superintendents of Trade in China. Napier was instructed to obey Chinese regulations, communicate directly with Chinese authorities, superintend trade pertaining to the contraband trade of opium, and to survey China's coastline. Upon his arrival in China, Napier tried to circumvent the restrictive system that forbade direct contact with Chinese officials by sending a letter directly to the Viceroy of Canton. The Viceroy refused to accept it, and on 2 September of that year an edict was issued that temporarily closed British trade. In response, Napier ordered two Royal Navy vessels to bombard Chinese forts on the Pearl River in a show of nautical force. This command was followed through, but war was avoided due to Napier falling ill with typhus and ordering a retreat. The brief gunnery duel drew condemnation by the Chinese government, as well as criticism from the British government and foreign merchants.[41] Other nationalities, such as the Americans, prospered through their continued peaceful trade with China, but the British were told to leave Canton for either Whampoa or Macau.[42] Lord Napier was forced to return to Macau, where he died of typhus a few days later.[43] After Lord Napier's death, Captain Charles Elliot received the King Commission in 1836 to continue Napier's work of conciliating the Chinese.[43]

 
Commissioner Lin Zexu, dubbed "Lin of Clear Sky" for his moral integrity.

Destruction of opium at HumenEdit

 
Lin Zexu's "memorial" (摺奏) written directly to Queen Victoria

By 1838, the British were selling roughly 1,400 tons of opium per year to China. Legalization of the opium trade was the subject of ongoing debate within the Chinese administration, but it was repeatedly rejected, and in 1838 the government began to actively sentence native drug traffickers to death.[44] It has been estimated that by the start of the Qing crackdown on opium, 27% of the male Chinese population was actively consuming opium.[45]

In 1839 the Daoguang Emperor appointed scholar-official Lin Zexu to the post of Special Imperial Commissioner with the task of eradicating the opium trade.[46] Lin wrote an open letter to Queen Victoria questioning the moral reasoning of the British government. Citing what he understood to be a strict prohibition of the trade within Great Britain, Lin questioned how Britain could declare itself moral while it's merchants profited from the sale of the drug in China. He wrote: "Your Majesty has not before been thus officially notified, and you may plead ignorance of the severity of our laws, but I now give my assurance that we mean to cut this harmful drug forever."[47] The letter never reached the Queen, with one source suggesting that it was lost in transit.[48] Lin pledged that nothing would divert him from his mission, "If the traffic in opium were not stopped a few decades from now we shall not only be without soldiers to resist the enemy, but also in want of silver to provide an army."[49] Lin banned the sale of opium and demanded that all supplies of the drug be surrendered to the Chinese authorities. He also closed the Pearl River Channel, trapping British traders in Canton.[28] As well as seizing opium stockpiles in warehouses and the thirteen factories, Chinese troops boarded British ships in the Pearl River and South China Sea before destroying the opium on board.[50][51]

 
Contemporary Chinese depiction of the destruction of opium under Commissioner Lin.

The British Superintendent of Trade in China, Charles Elliot, protested the decision to forcibly seize the opium stockpiles. He ordered all ships carrying opium to flee and prepare for battle. Lin responded by quarantining the foreign dealers in their warehouses, and kept them from communicating with their ships in port.[49] To defuse the situation, Elliot convinced the British traders to cooperate with Chinese authorities and hand over their opium stockpiles with the promise of eventual compensation for their losses by the British government.[28] While this amounted to a tacit acknowledgment that the British government did not disapprove of the trade, it also placed a huge liability on the exchequer. This promise, and the inability of the British government to pay it without causing a political storm, was an important casus belli for the subsequent British offensive.[52]

During April and May 1839, British and American dealers surrendered 20,283 chests and 200 sacks of opium. The stockpile was publicly destroyed on the beach outside of Guangzhou. Lin was able to sustain the prohibition policy for many months.[49]

After the opium was surrendered, trade was restarted on the strict condition that no more opium be shipped into China. Lin demanded that all merchants sign a bond promising not to deal in opium, under penalty of death.[53] The British government opposed their signing of the bond, feeling that it violated the principle of free trade, but some merchants who did not trade in opium (such as Olyphant & Co.) were willing to sign against Elliot's orders. Trade in regular goods continued unabated, and the scarcity of opium caused by the seizure of the foreign warehouses caused the black market to flourish.[54] Some newly arrived merchant ships were able learn of the ban on opium before they entered the Pearl River estuary, and so they unloaded their cargoes at Lintin Island. This the opportunity caused by the sharp rise in the price of opium was seized upon by some of the Cohong trading houses and smugglers, who were able to evade commissioner Lin's efforts and smuggled more opium into China. Superintendent Elliot was aware of the smugglers' activities on Lintin and was under orders to stop them, but he feared that any action by the Royal Navy could spark a war and withheld his ships.[37][28]

Skirmish at KowloonEdit

In early July 1839 a group of British merchant sailors in Kowloon became intoxicated after consuming rice liqueur. Two of the sailors became agitated with and beat to death Lin Weixi, a villager from nearby Tsim Sha Tsui.[55][56] Superintendent Elliot ordered the arrest of the two men, and paid compensation to Lin's family and village. However, he refused a request to turn the sailors over to Chinese authorities.[57] Commissioner Lin saw this as an obstruction of justice, and ordered the sailors to be handed over.[58] Elliot instead held a trial for the accused men aboard a warship at sea, with himself serving as the judge and merchant captains serving as jurors. He invited the Qing authorities to observe and comment on the proceedings, but this offer was declined.[59] The naval court convicted 5 sailors of assault and rioting, and sentenced them to a fines along with hard labor in Britain (this verdict would later be overturned in British courts.)[60][59]

 
1841 painting of the Chinese fort on Kowloon.

Angered by the violation of China's sovereignty, Lin recalled Chinese laborers from Macau and issued an edict preventing the sale of food to the British.[59] War Junks were deployed to the mouth of the Pearl River, while signs were placed and rumors spread by the Qing that they had poisoned the freshwater springs traditional used to restock foreign merchant ships. On 24 August the Portuguese governance at Macau was ordered to expel the British, causing a flight from the city by British merchants. By the end of August over 60 British ships and over 2000 people were idling off of the Chinese coast, fast running out of provisions. On 30 August HMS Volage arrived to defend the fleet from a potential Chinese attack, and Elliot warned Qing authorities in Kowloon that the embargo on food and water must be ended soon.[61]

Early on 4 September Elliot dispatched an armed schooner and a cutter to Kowloon to buy provisions from Chinese peasants. The two ships approached three Chinese war junks in the harbor and requested permission to land men in order to procure supplies. The British were waved through and basic necessities were provided to the British by Chinese sailors, but the Chinese commander inside Kowloon fort refused to allow the locals to trade with the British and confined the townspeople inside settlement. The situation grew more intense as the day went on, and in the afternoon Elliot issued an ultimatum that, if the Chinese refused to allow the British to purchase supplies, they would be fired upon. A 3:00 pm deadline set by Elliot past and the British ships opened fire on the Chinese vessels. The junks returned fire, and Chinese gunners on land began to fire at the British ships. Nightfall ended the battle, and the Chinese junks withdrew, ending what would be known as the Battle of Kowloon. Many British officers wanted to launch a land attack on Kowloon fort the next day, but Elliot decided against it, stating that such an action would cause "great injury and irritation" to the town's inhabitants.[62] After the skirmish, Elliot circulated a paper in Kowloon, reading;

The men of the English nation desire nothing but peace; but they cannot submit to be poisoned and starved. The Imperial cruizers they have no wish to molest or impede; but they must not prevent the people from selling. To deprive men of food is the act only of the unfriendly and hostile.[63]

Having driven off the Chinese ships, the British fleet began to purchase provisions from the local villagers, often with the aid of bribed Chinese officials in Kowloon.[64]

Lai Enjue, the local commander at Kowloon, declared that a victory had been won against the British.[64] He claimed that a two masted British warship had been sunk, and that 40-50 British had been killed. He also reported that the British had been unable to acquire supplies, and his reports severely understated the strength of the Royal Navy.[65][66] His notes on the skirmish were passed on to the Daoguang Emperor by Commissioner Lin.

Reaction in BritainEdit

Following the Chinese crackdown on the opium trade, discussion arose as to how Britain would respond, as the public in the United States and Britain had expressed outrage that Britain was supporting the opium trade.[67] Many British citizens sympathized with the Chinese and wanted to halt the sale of opium, while others want to contain or regulate the international narcotics trade. However, a great deal of anger was expressed over the treatment of British diplomats and towards the protectionist trading polices of Qing China. The Whig controlled government in particular advocated for war with China, and the pro-Whig press printed stories about Chinese "despotism and cruelty."[68]

Parliamentary debatesEdit

Since August 1839, reports had being been published in London newspapers about troubles at Canton and the impending war with China. The Queen's Annual Address to the House of Lords on 16 January 1840 expressed the concern that "Events have happened in China which have occasioned an interruption of the commercial intercourse of my subjects with that country. I have given, and shall continue to give, the most serious attention to a mater so deeply affecting the interests of my subjects and the dignity of my Crown." [69]. The Whig Melbourne Government was then in a weak political situation. On a motion of non-confidence moved in the House of Commons by the Tory Opposition John Buller, the Government survived the vote on 31 January 1840 by a majority of 21 (308 votes against vs 287 votes for). The Tories saw the China Question as a good opportunity to beat the Government, and James Graham moved a motion on 7 April 1840 in the House of Commons, censuring the Government not on the impending war with China nor the opium trade, but on the Government's "want of foresight and precaution" and "their neglect to furnish the superintendent at Canton with powers and instructions" to deal with the opium trade.[70]. This is a deliberate move of the Tories to avoid the sensitive issues of war and opium trade and to obtain maximum support for the motion within the party[71].

Calls for military action were met with mixed responses when the matter went before Parliament. Foreign Secretary Palmerston, a politician known for his aggressive foreign policy and advocacy for free trade, led the pro war camp. Palmerston strongly believed that the destroyed opium should be considered property, not contraband, and as such reparations had to be made for its destruction. He justified military action by saying that no one could "say that he honestly believed the motive of the Chinese Government to have been the promotion of moral habits" and that the war was being fought to stem China's balance of payments deficit.[67] After consulting with William Jardine (a powerful merchant and prominent opium trader), the foreign secretary drafted a letter to Prime Minister William Melbourne calling for a military response. Other merchants called for an opening of free trade with China, and it was commonly cited that the Chinese consumers were the driving factor of the opium trade. The periodic expulsion of British merchants from Canton and the refusal of the Qing government to treat Britain as a diplomatic equal were seen as a slight to national pride.[72] Few Tory or liberal politicians supported the war. Sir James Graham, Lord Phillip Stanhope, and future Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone headed the anti-war faction in Britain, and denounced the ethics of the opium trade.[72][68]. After three days of debate, the vote was taken on Graham's motion on 9 April 1840, which was defeated by a majority of only 9 votes (262 votes for vs 271 votes against ). The Tories in the House of Commons thus failed to deter the Government from proceeding with the war and stop the British warships already on their way to China. A similar motion[73] moved by Earl Stanhope in the House of Lords on 12 May 1840 also failed to get passed. The House of Commons finally agreed on 27 July 1840 to a resolution of granting £173,442 for the expenses of the expedition to China, long after the war with China had broken out.

Cabinet Decision and Palmerston lettersEdit

Under strong pressure and lobbying from various trade and manufacturer associations, the Whig cabinet under Prime Minister Melbourne decided on 1 October 1839 to send an expedition to China [74]. War preparations then began.

In early November 1839, the Foreign Secretary Palmerston instructed Auckland, Governor General of India, to prepare forces for China. On 20 February 1840 Palmerston (who remained unaware of the First Battle of Chuenpi in November 1839) drafted two letters detailing the British response to the situation in China. One letter was addressed to the Elliots, the other to the Daoguang Emperor and the Qing government. The letter to the Emperor informed China that Great Britain had sent a military expeditionary force to the Chinese coast.[75] In the letter, Palmerston stated that,

"These measures of hostility on the part of Great Britain against China are not only justified, but even rendered absolutely necessary, by the outrages which have been committed by the Chinese Authorities against British officers and Subjects, and these hostilities will not cease, until a satisfactory arrangement shall have been made by the Chinese Government.[75]

In his letter to the Elliots, Palmerston instructed the commanders to set up a blockade of the Pearl River and forward to a Chinese official the letter from Palmerston addressing the Chinese Emperor. They were to then capture the Chusan Islands, blockade the mouth of the Yang-Tse River, start negotiations with Qing officials, and finally sail the fleet into the Bohai Sea, where they would send another copy of the aforementioned letter to Beijing.[76] Palmerston also issued a list of objectives that the British government wanted accomplished, with said objectives being:

  • Demand to be treated with the respect due to a royal envoy by the Qing authorities.
  • Secure the right of the British superintendent in China to administer justice to British subjects in China.
  • Seek recompense for destroyed British property.
  • Gain most favored trading status with the Chinese government.
  • Request the right for foreigners to safely inhabit and own private property in China.
  • Ensure that, while contraband can be seized, no harm comes to the person of British subjects carrying illicit goods in China.
  • End the system by which British merchants are restricted to trading solely in Canton.
  • Ask that the cites of Canton, Amoy, Shanghai, Ningpo, and northern Formosa be freely opened to trade from all foreign powers.
  • Secure island(s) along the Chinese coast that can be easily defended and provisioned, or exchange captured islands for favorable trading terms.

Lord Palmerston left it to the Superintendent Elliot's discretion as to how these objectives would be fulfilled, but noted that while negotiation would be a preferable outcome, he did not trust that diplomacy would succeed, writing;

"To sum up in a few words the result of this Instruction, you will see, from what I have stated, that the British Government demands from that of China satisfaction for the past and security for the future; and does not choose to trust to negotiation for obtaining either of these things; but has sent out a Naval and Military Force with orders to begin at once to take the Measures necessary for attaining the object in view."[76]

WarEdit

 
Engagement between British and Chinese ships in the First Battle of Chuenpi, 1839.

In late October 1839 the merchant ship Thomas Coutts arrived in China and sailed to Canton. Thomas Coutts's Quaker owners refused on religious grounds to deal in opium, a fact which the Chinese authorities were aware of. The ship's captain, Warner, believed Elliot had exceeded his legal authority by banning the signing of the "no opium trade" bond,[77] and negotiated with the governor of Canton. Warner hoped that all British ships not carrying opium could negotiate to legally unload their goods at Chuenpi, an island near Humen.[78]

To prevent other British ships from following Thomas Coutts's precedent, Elliot ordered a blockade of British shipping in the Pearl River. Fighting began on 3 November 1839, when a second British ship, Royal Saxon, attempted to sail to Canton. The British Royal Navy ships HMS Volage and HMS Hyacinth fired warning shots at Royal Saxon. In response to this commotion, a fleet of Chinese war junks under the command of Guan Tianpei sailed out to protect Royal Saxon.[79] The ensuing First Battle of Chuenpi resulted in the destruction of 4 Chinese war junks and the withdrawal of both fleets.[80] In the following days a series of skirmishes broke out in Kwun Chung, during which the British were repulsed.

The Qing navy's official report on the Battle of Chuenpi claimed that the navy had protected the British merchant vessel and reported a great victory for the day. In reality, the Chinese had been out-classed by the British vessels and several Chinese ships were disabled.[80] Elliot reported that his squadron was protecting the 29 British ships in Chuenpi, and began to prepare for the Qing reprisal. Fearing that the Chinese would reject any contacts with the British and eventually attack with fire rafts, he ordered all ships to leave Chuenpi and head for Tung Lo Wan, 20 miles (30 km) from Macau. Elliot asked Adrião Acácio da Silveira Pinto, the Portuguese governor of Macau, to let British ships load and unload their goods there in exchange for paying rent and any duties. The governor refused for fear that the Chinese would discontinue supplying food and other necessities to Macau, and on 14 January 1840 the Emperor asked all foreigners to halt material assistance to the British.[80][81]

Left without a major base of operations in China, the British withdrew their merchant shipping from the region while maintaining the Royal Navy's China squadron on standby. Per Lord Palmerston's letter, plans were made by the British to regroup and launch a series of attacks on Chinese ports.[82] From London, Lord Palmerston continued to dictate operations in China, ordering the East India Company to divert troops from India in preparation for a limited war against the Chinese. It was decided that the war would not be fought as a full-scale war, but rather as a punitive expedition.[83][81] Superintendent Elliot remained in command of the Royal Navy's warships, Commodore James Bremer led the Royal Marines, and Major General Hugh Gough (when he arrived in China) commanded the British land forces in addition to serving as the overall commander of British forces in China.[84] The cost of the war would be paid by the British Government.[80][85][86][87]

Qishan (ᡴᡳᡧᠠᠨ), replaced Lin Zexu in 1840 as the Viceroy of Liangguang.[88] The Chinese Naval forces in Canton were under the command of Admiral Guan Tianpei, who had fought the British at Chuenpi. The Qing southern army and garrisons were under the command of General Yang Fang. Overall command was invested in the Daoguang Emperor and his court.[8] The Chinese government initially believed that, as in the 1834 Nappier Affair, the British had been successfully expelled.[85] Few preparations were made for a British attack in northern China, and the events leading to the eventual outbreak of the Sino-Sikh War in 1841 were seen as a greater cause for concern.[89][90]

British offensive beginsEdit

 
Capture of Chusan, July 1840

In June 1840, an expeditionary force of British troops aboard 15 barracks ships, four steam-powered gunboats and 25 smaller boats reached the mouth of the Pearl River.[91] The flotilla was under the command of Commodore James Bremer. The British issued an ultimatum demanding the Qing Government pay compensation for losses suffered from interrupted trade and the destruction of opium.[92]

In his letters, Palmerston instructed the joint plenipotentiaries Elliot and his cousin Admiral George Elliot to acquire the cession of at least one island for trade on the Chinese coast.[93] With the British expeditionary force now in place, a combined naval and ground assault was launched on the Chusan Archipelago. Zhoushan Island, the largest and best defended of the islands was the primary target for the attack, as was its vital port of Dinghai. The British captured the city on 5 July after the Chinese defenders withdrew.[92] The British occupied Dinghai harbor and prepared to use it as a staging point for operations in China.

With the strategic harbor on Zhoushan secured, the British began to focus on the war in southern China. Elliot and Bremer judged that gaining control of the Pearl River and Canton would put the British in a strong negotiating position with the Qing authorities, as well as allow for the renewal of trade when the war ended. After a skirmish in Macau on 19 August two British ships and 380 marines took control of the land-bridge separating the Portuguese colony from the mainland.[94] Five months after the British victory at Chusan the Royal Navy sailed south to Humen, known to the British as Bogue.

Pearl River campaignEdit

During this time Admiral Guan Taipei greatly reinforced the Qing positions in Humen, as he was aware (sources state that Guan had been preparing for an eventual attack on the position since 1835)[95] that the British would attempt to force their way up the Pearl River to Canton. The Humen forts blocked transit of the river, and were garrisoned with 3000 men and 306 cannon. By the time the British fleet arrived, 10000 Qing soldiers were in position to defend Canton and the surrounding area.[95] The British fleet arrived in early January and began to bombard the Qing defenses there. On 7 January 1841 the British won a decisive victory in the Second Battle of Chuenpi, destroying 11 Junks of the Chinese fleet and capturing the Humen forts. The victory allowed the British to set up a blockade of the lower Pearl River, a blow that forced the Qing navy to retreat upriver.[96]

Knowing the strategic value of Pearl River Delta to China and aware that British naval superiority made a reconquest of the region unlikely, Qishan attempted to prevent the war for widening further by negotiating a peace treaty with Britain.[97] On 21 January Qishan and Elliot drafted the Convention of Chuenpi, a document which they hoped would end the war.[97][98] The convention would establish equal diplomatic rights between Britain and China, exchange Hong Kong Island for Chusan, and reopen trade in Canton by 1 February 1841.[98] China would also pay six millions of silver dollars as recompense for the opium destroyed at Humen in 1838. The status of the opium trade was left open to be discussed at a future date. Despite the success of the negotiations between Qishan and Elliot, both of their respective governments refused to sign the convention. The Daoguang Emperor was infuriated that Qing territory would be given up in a treaty that had been signed without his permission, and ordered Qishan arrested (who was later sentenced to death, then commuted to military service.) Lord Palmerston recalled Elliot from his post and refused to sign the convention, wanting more concessions to be forced from the Chinese per his original instructions.[81][88]

 
British ships approaching Canton in May 1841

The brief interlude in the fighting ended in the beginning of February after the Chinese refused to reopen Canton to British trade. On 19 February a longboat from HMS Nemesis came under fire from a fort on North Wangtong Island, prompting a British response.[99] Henry Pottinger ordered another blockade of the Pearl River and resumed combat operations against the Chinese. The British captured the remaining Bogue forts on 26 February during the Battle of the Bogue and the Battle of First Bar on the following day, allowing the fleet to move further upriver towards Canton.[100][97] Admiral Taipei was killed in action during the fighting on 26 February. On 2 March the British destroyed a Qing fort near Pazhou and captured Whamoa, an action that directly threatened Canton's east flank.[101][102] The attack on Whamoa was directed in person by Major General Gough, who had recently arrived from Madras aboard HMS Cruizer. Superintendent Elliot (who was unaware that he had been dismissed) and the Governor-General of Canton declared a 3-day truce on 3 March. Between the 3rd and the 6th the British forces that had evacuated Chusan per the Convention of Chuenpi arrived in the Pearl River. The Chinese military was likewise reinforced, and by 16 March General Yang Fang commanded 30,000 men in the area surrounding Canton.[103]

While the main British fleet prepared to sail up the Pearl River to Canton, a group of three warships departed for the Xi River estuary, intending to navigate the waterway between Macau and Canton. The fleet, led by Captain James Scott and Superintendent Elliot, was composed of the frigate HMS Samarang and the steamships HMS Nemesis and HMS Atalanta.[104] Though the waterway was at places only 6 feet deep, the shallow drafts of the steamships allowed the British to approach Canton from a direction the Qing believed to be impossible.[105] In a series of engagements along the river from March 13-15th, the British captured or destroyed Chinese ships, guns, and military materiel. 9 junks, 6 fortresses, and 105 guns were destroyed or captured in what was known as the Broadway expedition.[106]

 
British map of the Pearl River.

With the Pearl River cleared of Chinese defenses, the British debated advancing on Canton. Though the truce had ended on 6 March, Superintendent Elliot believed that the British should negotiate with the Qing authorities from their current position of strength rather than risk a battle in Canton. The Qing army made no aggressive moves towards the British and instead began to fortify the city. Chinese military engineers began to construct a number of mud earthworks on the riverbank, sank junks to create riverblocks, and started constructing fire rafts and gunboats. Chinese merchants were ordered to remove all of the silk and tea from Canton to impede trade, and the local populace was barred from selling food to the British ships on the river.[107] On 16 March a British ship approaching a Chinese fort under a flag of truce was fired upon, leading to the British setting the fort on fire. These actions convinced Elliot that the Chinese were preparing to fight, and following the return of the ships of the Broadway expedition to the fleet, the British attacked Canton on 18 March, taking the Thirteen Factories with very few casualties and raising the Union Jack above the British factory.[97] The city was partially occupied by the British and trade was reopened after negotiation with the Hong merchants. After several days of further military successes, British forces commanded the high ground around Canton. Another truce was declared on 20 March. Against the advice of some of his captains, Elliot withdrew most of the Royal Navy warships downriver to the Bocca Tigris.

 
Sketch of British soldiers occupying the high ground above Canton in 1841.

In mid April Yishan (Qishan's replacement and the Daoguang Emperor's cousin) arrived in Canton. He declared that trade should continue to remain open, sent emissaries to Elliot, and began to gather military assets outside Canton. The Qing army camped outside of the city soon numbered 50,000, and the money earned from the reopened trade was spent repairing and expanding Canton's defenses. Concealed artillery batteries were built along the Pear River, Chinese soldiers were deployed in Whampoa and the Bocca Tigris, and hundreds of small river craft were armed for war. A bulletin sent from the Daoguang Emperor commanded the Qing forces to "Exterminate the rebels at all points," and orders were given to drive the British from the Pearl River before reclaiming Hong Kong and driving the invaders out of China altogether.[108] This order was leaked and became widely circulated in Canton among foreign merchants, who were already suspicious of Chinese intentions after learning of the Qing military buildup. In May many Hong merchants and their families left the city, raising further concerns about a renewal of hostilities. Rumors spread that Chinese divers were being trained to drill holes in the hulls of British ships, and that fleets of fire rafts were being prepared for deployment against the Royal Navy.[109] During the buildup the Qing army was weakened by infighting between units and lack of confidence in Yishan, who openly distrusted Cantonese civilians and soldiers, instead choosing to rely on forces drawn from other Chinese provinces.[110] On 20 May Yishan issued a statement, asking the "people of Canton, and all foreign merchants who are respectfully obedient, not to tremble with alarm and be frightened out of their wits at the military hosts that are gathering around, there being no probability of hostilities." The next day Elliot requested that all British merchants evacuate the city by sundown, and several warships were recalled to their positions in front of Canton.[111]

On the night of 21 May the Qing launched a coordinated night attack on the British army and navy.[96] Artillery batteries hidden in Canton and on the Pearl River (many of which the British believed they had disabled earlier) opened fire, and Qing infantry retook the British Factory. A large formation of 200 fire rafts connected by a chain was sent drifting towards the British ships at Canton, and fishing boats armed with matchlock guns began to engage the Royal Navy. The British warships were able to evade the attack, and stray rafts set Canton's waterfront on fire, illuminating the river and foiling the night attack. Downriver at Whamoa the Chinese attacked the British vessels at anchor there and attempted to prevent ships from reaching Canton. Having suspected an attack, (and as a consequence delaying his own offensive) Major General Gough consolidated the British forces at Hong Kong and ordered a rapid advance upriver to Canton. These reinforcements arrived on 25 May, and the British counter-attacked, taking the last four Qing forts above Canton and bombarding the city.[96] The Qing army fled in panic when the city heights were taken, and the British pursed them into the countryside. On 29 May a crowd of around 20,000 Cantonese villagers and townspeople attacked and defeated a company of 60 Indian sepoys in what became known as the Sanyuanli Incident, and Gough ordered a retreat back to the river. The fighting subsided on 30 May 1841 and Canton came fully under British occupation.[112][113][97] Following the capture of Canton the British command and the governor-general of Canton agreed to a cease-fire in the region. Under the terms of the limited peace, the British were paid to withdraw beyond the Bogue forts, an action they completed on 28 May.[112] The peace treaty was signed by Elliot without consulting the British army and Navy, an act which displeased General Gough.[114]

The defense of Canton was declared a diplomatic success by Yishan. In a letter to the Emperor, he wrote that the barbarians had begged "the chief general that he would implore the great Emperor in their behalf, that he would have mercy upon them, and cause their debts to be repaid them, and graciously permit them to carry on their commerce, when they would immediately withdraw their ships from the Bocca Tigris, and never dare again to raise any disturbance."[115] However, General Yang Fang was reprimanded by the Emperor for his agreeing to a truce rather than resisting the British.[116] The imperial court continued to debate China's next course of action for the war, as the Daoguang Emperor wanted Hong Kong retaken.

Central ChinaEdit

 
HMS Wellesley and the British squadron sailing from Hong Kong for the attack on Amoy in 1841.

Following their withdraw from Canton, the British relocated the expeditionary force to Hong Kong. As with the Chinese commanders, the British debated how the war should be continued. Elliot wanted to cease military operations and reopen trade, while Major General Gough wanted to capture the city of Amoy and blockade the Yangtze River.[117] In July a typhoon struck Hong Kong, damaging British ships in the harbor and destroying some of the facilities the expedition was building on the island.[118] The situation changed when on 29 July Elliot was informed that he had been replaced as Superintendent by Henry Pottinger, who arrived in Hong Kong on 10 August to begin his administration. Pottinger wanted to negotiate terms with the Qing for the entire country of China, rather than just the Pearl River, and so he turned away Chinese envoys from Canton and gave permission for the expeditionary force to proceed with their war plans. Admiral Sir William Parker also arrived in Hong Kong to replace Humphrey Fleming Senhouse (who had died of a fever on 29 June) as the commander of the British naval forces in China. Admiral Parker was a proponent of combined operations between the navy and army, and believed that these tactics could be implemented against the Chinese. It was agreed by the British commanders that combat operations should be moved north to put pressure on Beijing, and on 21 August the fleet sailed for Amoy.[119]

 
British troops at the Battle of Amoy, 1841

On 25 August the British fleet entered the Jiulong River estuary and arrived at Amoy. The city was prepared for a naval assault, as Qing military engineers had built several artillery batteries into the granite cliffs overlooking the river. A purely naval assault was considered too risky, prompting Gough to order a combined naval and ground attack on the defenses. On 26 August British marines and regular infantry flanked and destroyed the Chinese defenses guarding the river. Several large British ships failed to destroy the largest of the Chinese batteries (which withstood over 12,000 cannonballs fired at it),[120] so it was scaled and captured by the British infantry. The city of Amoy was abandoned on 27 August, and British soldiers entered the inner town and blew up the citadel's powder magazine. 26 Chinese junks and 128 cannons were captured. As Lord Palmerston wanted Amoy to become an international trade port at the end of the war, Gough ordered that no looting be tolerated and had officers enforce the death penalty for anyone found to be plundering. However, many merchants refused to ask for British protection out of fear of being branded as traitors to the Qing dynasty. The British withdrew to an island on the river, where they established a small garrison and blockaded the Jiulong River. With the city empty of any army, peasants, criminals, and deserters looted the town. The Qing army retook the city and restored order several days later, after which the city governor declared that a victory had been won and 5 British ships sunk.[121][106][122]

Changes in the British parliament resulted in Lord Palmerston being removed from his post as Foreign Minister on 30 August. William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne replaced him, and sought a more measured approach to the situation in China. He remained a supporter of the war.[123][124]

In September 1841, the British transport ship Nerbudda was shipwrecked on a reef off the northern coast of Taiwan after a brief gunnery duel with a Chinese fort. This sinking was followed by the loss of the brig Ann on another reef in March 1842. The survivors of both ships were marched to southern Taiwan, where they were imprisoned. 197 were executed on 10 August 1842. An additional 87 died from ill-treatment in captivity. This became known as the Nerbudda incident.[125]

October 1841 saw the British solidify their control over the central Chinese coast. Chusan had been exchanged for Hong Kong on the authority of Qishan in January 1841, after which the city had been re-garrisoned by the Qing. Fearing that the Chinese would improve the island's defenses, the British captured Chusan for a second time on 1 October and reestablished their control over Dinghai's important harbor.[126]

On 10 October a British naval force bombarded and captured a fort on the outskirts of Ningbo in central China. A battle broke out between the British army and a Chinese force of 1500 men on the road between Chinhai and Ningbo, during which the Chinese were routed. Following the defeat, Chinese authorities evacuated Ningbo and the empty city was taken by the British on 13 October. An imperial cannon manufactory in the city was captured by the British, reducing the ability of the Qing to replace their lost equipment, and the fall of the city threatened the nearby Qiantang River.[127][128] The capture of Ningbo forced the British command to examine their policy towards occupied Chinese territory and prizes of war. Admiral Parker and Superintendent Pottinger wanted a percentage of all Chinese property captured to be turned over to the British as legal prizes of war, while Gough argued that this would only turn the Chinese population against the British, and that if property had to be seized, it should be public property rather than private. British policy eventual settled that 10% of all property captured by the British expeditionary forces would be seized as war loot in retaliation for injustices done to British merchants. Gough later stated that this edict would compel his men to "punish one set of robbers for the benefit of another."[129]

Fighting ceased for the winter of 1841 while the British resupplied.[130] False reports sent by Yishan to the Emperor in Beijing resulted in the continued British threat being downplayed. In late 1841 the Daoguang Emperor discovered that his officials in Canton and Amoy had been sending him embellished reports. He ordered the Governor of Guangxi, Liang Chang-chü, to send him clear accounts of the events in Canton, noting that since Guangxi was a neighboring province, Liang must be receiving independent accounts. He warned Liang that he would be able to verify his information by obtaining secret inquiries from other places.[131] Yishan was recalled to the capital and faced trial by the Imperial War Court, which removed him from command. Now aware of the severity of the British threat, Chinese towns and cities began to fortify against naval incursions.[110][17]

In the spring of 1842 the Daoguang Emperor ordered his cousin Yijing to retake the city of Ningpo. In the ensuing Battle of Ningpo on 10 March the British garrison repelled the assault with rifle fire and naval artillery. At Ningpo the British lured the Qing army into the city streets before opening fire, resulting in heavy Chinese casualties.[132][133][134] The British pursed the retreating Chinese army, capturing the nearby city of Cixi on 15 March.[135]

The important harbor of Zhapu was captured on 18 May in the Battle of Chapu.[3] A British fleet bombarded the town, forcing its surrender. A holdout of 300 soldiers of the Eight Banners stalled the advance of British army for several hours, an act of heroism that was commended by General Gough.[136][137]

Yangtze river campaignEdit

With many Chinese ports now blocked or under British occupation, Major General Gough sought to cripple the finances of the Qing Empire by striking up the Yangtze River. 25 Warships and 10000 men were assembled at Ningpo and Zhapu in May for a planned advance into the Chinese interior.[138] The expedition's advance ships sailed up the Yangtze and captured the emperor's tax barges, a devastating blow that slashed the revenue of the imperial court in Beijing to just a fraction of what it had been.[139]

 
British troops capture Chinkiang in the last major battle of the war, 21 July 1842

On 14 June the mouth of the Huangpu River was captured by the British fleet. On 16 June the Battle of Woosung occurred, after which the British captured the towns of Wusong and Baoshan. The undefended outskirts of Shanghai were occupied by the British on 19 June. Following the battle, Shanghai was looted by retreating Qing banner-men, British soldiers, and local civilians. Qing Admiral Chen Huacheng was killed while defending a fort in Woosong.[140][141][138]

The fall of Shanghai left the vital city of Nanjing (Known as Jiangning under the Qing) vulnerable. The Qing amassed an army of 56,000 Manchu Banner-men and Han Green Standards to defend Liangjiang Province, and strengthened their river defenses on the Yangtze. However, British naval activity in Northern China led to resources and manpower being withdrawn to defend Beijing.[142] The Qing commander in Liangjiang Province released 16 British prisoners with the hope that a ceasefire could be reached, but poor communications led both the Qing government and the British to reject any overtures at peace.[143] In secret, the Daoguang Emperor considered signing a peace treaty with the British, but only in regards to the Yangtze River and not the war as a whole. Had it been signed, the British forces would have be paid to not enter the Yangtze River.[144]

On 14 July the British fleet on the Yangtze began to sail up the river. Reconnaissance alerted Gough to the logistical importance of the city of Zhenjiang, and plans were made to capture it.[145] Most of the city's guns had been relocated to Wusong and had been captured by the British when said city had been taken. The Qing commanders inside the city were disorganized, with Chinese sources stating that over 100 traitors were executed in Zhenjiang before the battle.[146] The British fleet arrived off of the city on the morning of 21 July, and the Chinese forts defending the city were blasted apart. The Chinese defenders initially retreated into the surrounding hills, causing a premature British landing. Fighting erupted when thousands of Chinese soldiers emerged from the city, beginning the Battle of Chinkiang. British engineers blew open the western gate and stormed into the city, where fierce street to street fighting ensued. Zhenjiang was devastated by the battle, with many Chinese soldiers and their families committing suicide rather than be taken prisoner.[3][89] The British suffered their highest combat losses of the war (36 killed) taking the city.[141][42][137]

 
Oil painting depicting the signing of the Treaty of Nanking.

After capturing Zhenjiang the British fleet cut the vital Grand Canal, paralyzing the Caoyun system and severely disrupting the Chinese ability to distribute grain throughout the Empire.[147][141]

The British departed Zhenjiang on 3 August, intending to sail to Nanking. They arrived outside the Jiangning District on 9 August, and were in position to assault the city by the 11th. On the 14th a Chinese delegation met with the British, and on the 21st the Daoguang Emperor authorized his diplomats to sign a peace treaty with the British.[148][149][150]

The First Opium war officially ended on 29 August 1842 with the signing of the Treaty of Nanking.[151] The document was signed by officials of the British and Qing empires aboard the HMS Cornwallis.[152]

Technology and tacticsEdit

BritishEdit

The British military superiority during the conflict drew heavily on the success of the Royal Navy.[153]

 
A Royal Navy steamship destroying a Chinese junk with a Congreve rocket. Lightly armored Chinese warships were decimated by heavy guns and explosive weaponry.

British warships carried more guns than their Chinese opponents and were maneuverable enough to evade Chinese boarding actions. Steam ships such as the HMS Nemesis were able to move against winds and tides in Chinese rivers, and were armed with heavy guns and congreve rockets.[153] Several of the larger British warships in China (notably the third-rates HMS Cornwallis, HMS Wellesley, and HMS Melville) carried more guns than entire fleets of Chinese junks.[138] British naval superiority allowed the Royal Navy to attack Chinese forts with very little danger to themselves, as British naval cannons out-ranged the vast majority of the Qing artillery.[138][154]

 
British line infantry advancing on a Chinese position.

British soldiers in China were equipped with Brunswick rifles and rifle-modified Brown Bess muskets, both of which possessed an effective firing range of 200–300 metres.[155] British marines were equipped with percussion caps that greatly reduced weapon misfires and allowed firearms to be used in damp environments. In terms of gunpowder, the British formula was better manufactured and contained more sulfur than the Chinese mixture.[155] This granted British weapons an advantage in terms of range, accuracy and projectile velocity. British artillery was lighter (owing to improved forging methods) and more maneuverable than the cannons used by the Chinese. As with the naval artillery, British guns out-ranged the Chinese cannon.[154]

In terms of tactics, the British forces in China followed doctrines established during the Napoleonic Wars that had been adapted during the various colonial wars of the 1820s and 1830s. Many of the British soldiers deployed to China were veterans of colonial wars in India and had experience fighting larger but technologically inferior armies.[156] In battle, the British line infantry would advance towards the enemy in columns, forming ranks once they had closed to firing range. Companies would commence firing volleys into the enemy ranks until they retreated. If a position needed to be taken, an advance or charge with bayonets would be ordered. Light infantry companies screened the line infantry formations, protecting their flanks and utilizing skirmishing tactics to disrupt the enemy.[130] British artillery was used to destroy the Qing artillery and break up enemy formations. During the conflict, the British superiority in range, rate of fire, and accuracy allowed the infantry to deal significant damage to their enemy before the Chinese could return fire.[157] The use of naval artillery to support infantry operations allowed the British to take cities and forts will minimal casualties.[158][159]

The overall strategy of the British during the war was to inhibit the finances of the Qing Empire, with the ultimate goal of acquiring a colonial possession on the Chinese coast. This was accomplished through the capture of Chinese cities and by blockading major river systems.[160] Once a fort or city had been captured, the British would destroy the local arsenal and disable all of the captured guns.[159] They would then move on to the next target, leaving a small garrison behind. This strategy was planned and implemented by Major General Gough, who was able to operate with minimal input from the British government after Superintendent Elliot was recalled in January 1841.[161] The large number of private British merchants and East India Company ships deployed in Singapore and the India colonies ensured that the British forces in China were adequately supplied.[162][6]

Qing DynastyEdit

 
Chinese soldiers armed with gingals during the First Opium War.

From the onset of the war the Chinese navy was severely disadvantaged. Chinese war junks were intended for use against pirates or equivalent types of vessels, and were most effective in close range river engagements. Due to their slow speed, Qing captains consistently found themselves sailing towards much more maneuverable British ships, and as a consequence the Chinese could only use their bow guns.[163] The size of the British ships made traditional boarding tactics useless, and the junks carried smaller numbers of inferior weaponry.[132] In addition, the Chinese ships were poorly armored; in several battles, British shells and rockets penetrated Chinese magazines and detonated the junk's gunpowder stores. Highly maneuverable steamships such the HMS Nemesis could decimate small fleets of junks.[138] The only western-style warship in the Qing Navy, the converted East Indiaman Cambridge, was destroyed in the Battle of First Bar.[164]

The defensive nature of the conflict resulted in the Chinese relying heavily an extensive network of fortifications. The Kangxi Emperor (1654–1722) began the construction of river defenses to combat pirates, and encouraged the use of western style cannons. By the time of the First Opium War, multiple forts defended most major Chinese cities and waterways. Although the forts were well armed and strategically positioned, the Qing defeat exposed major flaws in their design. The cannons used in the Qing defensive fortifications were a collection of Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, and British pieces.[165] The domestically produced Chinese cannon were crafted using sub-par forging methods, limiting their effectiveness in combat and causing ware on their gun barrels. The Chinese blend of gunpowder contained more charcoal than the British mixture did.[155] While this made the explosive more stable and thus easier to store, it also limited its potential as a propellant, decreasing projectile range and accuracy.[166][155] Overall, Chinese cannon technology was considered to be 200 years behind that of the British.[167] Chinese forts were unable to withstand attacks by European weaponry, as they were designed without angled glacis and many did not have protected magazines.[160][168] The limited range of the Qing cannon allowed the British to bombard the Qing defenses from a safe distance, then land soldiers to storm them with minimal risk. Many of the larger Chinese guns were built as fixed emplacements and were unable to be maneuvered to fire at British ships.[169] The failure of the Qing fortifications coupled with the Chinese underestimation of the Royal Navy allowed the British to force their way up major rivers and impede Qing logistics.[160] Most notably, the powerful series of forts at Humen were well positioned to stop an invader from proceeding upriver to Canton, but it was not considered that an enemy would attack and destroy the forts themselves, as the British did during the war.[170]

At the start of the war the Qing army consisted of over 200,000 soldiers, with around 800,000 men being able to be called for war. These forces consisted of Manchu Bannermen, the Green Standard Army, provincial militias, and imperial garrisons. The Qing armies were armed with matchlocks and shotguns, which had an effective range of 100 metres.[155] Chinese historians estimate 30–40% of the Qing forces were armed with firearms.[171] Chinese soldiers were also equipped with halberds, spears, swords, and crossbows. The Qing dynasty employed large batteries of artillery in battle.[83]

 
Painting of a battle between Qing matchlock infantry and British line infantry at the Battle of Chinkiang. The retreat of the Qing infantry into the city and the ensuing close-quarters combat led to heavy casualties on both sides.

The tactics of the Qing remained consistent with what they had been in previous centuries.[171][172] Soldiers with firearms would form ranks and fire volleys into the enemy while men armed with spears and pikes would drive (described by the Chinese as Tuī (推) push) the enemy off of the battlefield.[173] Cavalry was used to break infantry formations and pursue routed enemies, while Qing artillery was used to scatter enemy formations and destroy fortifications.[174] During the First Opium War, these tactics were unable to successfully deal with British firepower. Chinese melee formations were decimated by artillery, and Chinese soldiers armed with matchlocks could not effectively exchange fire with British ranks, who greatly out ranged them.[175][130] Most battles of the war were fought in cities or on cliffs and riverbanks, limiting the Qing usage of cavalry. Many Qing cannon were destroyed by British counter-battery fire, and British light infantry companies were consistently able to outflank and capture Chinese artillery batteries.[168] A British officer said of the opposing Qing forces, "The Chinese are robust muscular fellows, and no cowards; the Tartars [i.e. Manchus] desperate; but neither are well commanded nor acquainted with European warfare. Having had, however, experience of three of them, I am inclined to supposed that a Tartar bullet is not a whit softer than a French one."[83]

The strategy of the Qing Dynasty during the war was to prevent the British from seizing Chinese territory.[83] This defensive strategy was hampered by the Qing severely underestimating the capacity of the British military. Qing defenses on the Pearl and Yangtze rivers were ineffective in stopping the British push inland, and superior naval artillery prevented the Chinese from retaking cities.[133][28] The Qing imperial bureaucracy was unable to react quickly to the prodding British attacks, while officials and commanders often reported false, faulty, or incomplete information to their superiors.[176] The Qing military system made it difficult to deploy troops to counter the mobile British forces.[177] In addition, the ongoing conflict with Sikhs on the Qing border with India drew away some of the most experienced Qing units from the war with Britain.[90]

AftermathEdit

The war ended in the signing of China's first Unequal Treaty, the Treaty of Nanking.[151][152] In the supplementary Treaty of the Bogue, the Qing empire also recognized Britain as an equal to China and gave British subjects extraterritorial privileges in treaty ports. In 1844, the United States and France concluded similar treaties with China, the Treaty of Wanghia and Treaty of Whampoa, respectively.[178]

ReactionsEdit

Some historians claim that Lord Palmerston, the British Foreign Secretary, initiated the Opium War to maintain the principle of free trade.[179] Professor Glenn Melancon, for example, argues that the issue in going to war was not opium but Britain's need to uphold its reputation, its honour, and its commitment to global free trade. China was pressing Britain just when the British faced serious pressures in the Near East, on the Indian frontier, and in Latin America. In the end, says Melancon, the government's need to maintain its honour in Britain and prestige abroad forced the decision to go to war.[81] Former American president John Quincy Adams commented that opium was "a mere incident to the dispute ... the cause of the war is the kowtow—the arrogant and insupportable pretensions of China that she will hold commercial intercourse with the rest of mankind not upon terms of equal reciprocity, but upon the insulting and degrading forms of the relations between lord and vassal."[180]

Critics, however, focused on the immorality of opium. William Ewart Gladstone denounced the war as "unjust and iniquitous" and criticised Lord Palmerston's willingness "to protect an infamous contraband traffic."[85]

LegacyEdit

 
Entrance of the Opium War Museum in Humen Town, Guangdong, China.

The war marked the start of what 20th century nationalists called the "Century of Humiliation". The ease with which the British forces defeated the numerically superior Chinese armies damaged the Qing dynasty's prestige. The Treaty of Nanking was a step to opening the lucrative Chinese market to global commerce and the opium trade. The interpretation of the war, which was long the standard in the People's Republic of China, was summarized in 1976: The Opium War, "in which the Chinese people fought against British aggression, marked the beginning of modern Chinese history and the start of the Chinese people's bourgeois-democratic revolution against imperialism and feudalism."[8]

The Treaty of Nanking, the Supplementary Treaty of the Bogue, and two French and American agreements were all "unequal treaties" signed between 1842 and 1844. The terms of these treaties undermined China's traditional mechanisms of foreign relations and methods of controlled trade. Five ports were opened for trade, gunboats, and foreign residence: Guangzhou, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Ningbo, and Shanghai. Hong Kong was seized by the British to become a free and open port. Tariffs were abolished thus preventing the Chinese from raising future duties to protect domestic industries and extraterritorial practices exempted Westerners from Chinese law. This made them subject to their own civil and criminal laws of their home country. Most importantly, the opium problem was never addressed and after the treaty was signed opium addiction doubled. China was forced to pay 21 million silver taels as an indemnity, which was used to pay compensation for the traders' opium destroyed by Commissioner Lin. A couple of years after the treaties were signed internal rebellion began to threaten foreign trade. Due to the Qing government's inability to control collection of taxes on imported goods, the British government convinced the Manchu court to allow Westerners to partake in government official affairs. By the 1850s the Chinese Maritime Customs Service, one of the most important bureaucracies in the Manchu Government, was partially staffed and managed by Western Foreigners.[49] In 1858 opium was legalised, and would remain a problem[181]

Commissioner Lin, often referred to as "Lin the Clear Sky" for his moral probity,[182] was made a scapegoat. He was blamed for ultimately failing to stem the tide of opium imports and usage as well as for provoking an unwinnable war through his rigidity and lack of understanding of the changing world.[183] Nevertheless, as the Chinese nation formed in the 20th century, Lin became viewed as a hero, and has been immortalized at various locations around China.[184][185][186]

The First Opium War both reflected and contributed to a further weakening of the Chinese state's power and legitimacy.[187] Anti-Qing sentiment grew in the form of rebellions, such as the Taiping Rebellion, a war lasting from 1850–64 in which at least 20 million Chinese died. The decline of the Qing dynasty was beginning to be felt by much of the Chinese population.[11]

The opium trade faced intense enmity from the later British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone.[188] As a member of Parliament, Gladstone called it "most infamous and atrocious" referring to the opium trade between China and British India in particular.[189] Gladstone was fiercely against both of the Opium Wars Britain waged in China in the First Opium War initiated in 1840 and the Second Opium War initiated in 1857, denounced British violence against Chinese, and was ardently opposed to the British trade in opium to China.[190] Gladstone lambasted it as "Palmerston's Opium War" and said that he felt "in dread of the judgments of God upon England for our national iniquity towards China" in May 1840.[191] A famous speech was made by Gladstone in Parliament against the First Opium War.[192][193] Gladstone criticised it as "a war more unjust in its origin, a war more calculated in its progress to cover this country with permanent disgrace".[194] His hostility to opium stemmed from the effects opium brought upon his sister Helen.[195] Due to the First Opium war brought on by Palmerston, there was initial reluctance to join the government of Peel on part of Gladstone before 1841.[196]

Interactive mapEdit

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See alsoEdit

Fictional and narrative literatureEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Le Pichon, Alain (2006). China Trade and Empire. Oxford University Press. pp. 36–37. ISBN 0-19-726337-2.
  2. ^ a b c d e Martin, Robert Montgomery (1847). China: Political, Commercial, and Social; In an Official Report to Her Majesty's Government. Volume 2. London: James Madden. pp. 80–82.
  3. ^ a b c Rait, Robert S. (1903). The Life and Campaigns of Hugh, First Viscount Gough, Field-Marshal. Volume 1. p. 265.
  4. ^ John Makeham (2008). China: The World's Oldest Living Civilization Revealed. Thames & Hudson. p. 331. ISBN 978-0-500-25142-3. 
  5. ^ a b Tsang, Steve (2007). A Modern History of Hong Kong. I.B.Tauris. pp. 3–13, 29. ISBN 1-84511-419-1.
  6. ^ a b Farooqui, Amar (March 2005). Smuggling as Subversion: Colonialism, Indian Merchants, and the Politics of Opium, 1790–1843. Lexington Books. ISBN 0-7391-0886-7. 
  7. ^ Tsang 2004, p. 29
  8. ^ a b c The History of Modern China (Beijing, 1976) quoted in Janin, Hunt (1999). The India–China Opium Trade in the Nineteenth Century. McFarland. p. 207. ISBN 0-7864-0715-8.
  9. ^ a b Gray 2002, p. 22–23.
  10. ^ Carrera Stampa, Manuel. "La Nao de la China." Historia Mexicana 9 no. 33 (1959) 97–118.
  11. ^ a b c d Goldstone, Jack A. (2016-12-19). Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World: Population Change and State Breakdown in England, France, Turkey, and China, 1600–1850; 25th Anniversary Edition. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-315-40860-6. 
  12. ^ Charles C. Mann (2011) pp. 123–163
  13. ^ a b Spence 1999, p. 120.
  14. ^ Bernstein, William J. (2008). A splendid exchange: how trade shaped the world. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press. p. 286. ISBN 978-0-87113-979-5. 
  15. ^ a b Van Dyke, Paul A. (2005). The Canton trade: life and enterprise on the China coast, 1700–1845. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. pp. 6–9. ISBN 962-209-749-9. 
  16. ^ Hucker, Charles O. (1958). "Governmental Organization of the Ming Dynasty". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. Harvard-Yenching Institute: 38.
  17. ^ a b c d Alain Peyrefitte, The Immobile Empire—The first great collision of East and West—the astonishing history of Britain's grand, ill-fated expedition to open China to Western Trade, 1792–94 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992), pp. 520–545
  18. ^ a b c Peyrefitte 1993, pp. 487–503
  19. ^ Early American Trade, BBC
  20. ^ a b Report from the Select Committee on the Royal Mint: together with the minutes of evidence, appendix and index, Volume 2 (Great Britain. Committee on Royal Mint, 1849), p. 172.
  21. ^ "The Wars of the Poppies | History Today". www.historytoday.com. Retrieved 2017-08-02. 
  22. ^ a b c L.Seabrooke (2006). "Global Standards of Market Civilization". p. 192. Taylor & Francis 2006
  23. ^ a b "Grandeur of the Qing Economy". www.learn.columbia.edu. Retrieved 2017-05-24. 
  24. ^ a b Gao, Feng (2003) p. 141.
  25. ^ Compilation Group for the "History of Modern China" Series. (2000). p. 17.
  26. ^ a b Hanes III, W. Travis; Sanello, Frank (2002). The Opium Wars. Naperville, Illinois: Sourcebooks, Inc. p. 20. 
  27. ^ Meyers, Wang (2003) p. 587
  28. ^ a b c d e f "China: The First Opium War". John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010. Retrieved 2 December 2010Quoting British Parliamentary Papers, 1840, XXXVI (223), p. 374 
  29. ^ Downs. pp. 22–24
  30. ^ Liu, Henry C. K. (4 September 2008). Developing China with sovereign credit. Asia Times Online.
  31. ^ Guo Ting: "History of Modern China", Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1979 p. 39
  32. ^ Peyrefitte, 1993 p. 520
  33. ^ Peyrefitte, Alain (2013). The Immobile Empire. Vintage Books. ISBN 9780345803955. 
  34. ^ Layton 1997, p. 28.
  35. ^ "Early American Trade with China". teachingresources.atlas.illinois.edu. Retrieved 2017-08-08. 
  36. ^ http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1525&context=jeal
  37. ^ a b Peter Ward Fay, The Opium War, 1840–1842: Barbarians in the Celestial Empire in the Early Part of the Nineteenth Century and the Way by Which They Forced the Gates Ajar (Chapel Hill, North Carolina:: University of North Carolina Press, 1975).
  38. ^ Fu, Lo-shu (1966). A Documentary Chronicle of Sino-Western relations, Volume 1. p. 380. 
  39. ^ "China: The First Opium War" Archived 1 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine.. John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. Retrieved 2 December 2010 Quoting British Parliamentary Papers, 1840, XXXVI (223), p. 374
  40. ^ Cleary, Vern. "The First Opium War (1838-1842)". webs.bcp.org. Retrieved 2017-08-10. 
  41. ^ Lydia He. LIU; Lydia He Liu (30 June 2009). The Clash of Empires: the invention of China in modern world making. Harvard University Press. pp. 47–. ISBN 978-0-674-04029-8.
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  44. ^ Hanes p. 44
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  47. ^ Commissioner Lin: Letter to Queen Victoria, 1839. Modern History Sourcebook.
  48. ^ Hanes & Sanello 2004, p. 41.
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  51. ^ Report from the select committee on the trade with China: together with the minutes of evidence ... Ordered ... to be printed 5 June 1840. 1840. 
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  56. ^ Hoe & Roebuck 1999, p. 91
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  58. ^ Hanes & Sanello 2002, p. 62
  59. ^ a b c Hoe & Roebuck 1999, p. 92
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  69. ^ Hansard, 16 January 1840
  70. ^ There is often the misunderstanding, even among historians, that the House of Commons approved the Opium War when the motion was voted on 9 April 1840. It is therefore useful to quote directly from the Hansard the exact wording of the motion: "The right hon. Baronet concluded with moving that— It appears to this House, on consideration of the papers relating to China, presented to this House, by command of her Majesty, that the interruption in our commercial and friendly intercourse with that country, and the hostilities which have since taken place, are mainly to be attributed to the want of foresight and precaution on the part of her Majesty's present advisers, in respect to our relations with China, and especially to their neglect to furnish the superintendent at Canton with powers and instructions calculated to provide against the growing evils connected with the contraband traffic in opium, and adapted to the novel and difficult situation in which the superintendent was placed."
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  78. ^ Hans, Sellano (2004) p. 68.
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References and further readingEdit

External linksEdit