When London Became An Island

Soochong, Shoguns and the Saracen’s surveys

This document was dated Nov 6th 1856 and published in the London Evening Standard on January 6th 1857.

Address by the Inhabitants of the whole city to his Excellency the Plenipotentiary of Great Britain.

Every question has its rights, every position its contingences of advantage and disadvantage. We cannot refrain from stating those incidental to the present one for the benefit of your Excellency’s nation.

We, the Cantonese, who have been born and brought up in this place, some of us in the public service, some of us in trade, whatever our vocation, have each one all our property, our very food and raiment, in this city; and to all of us, hundreds of thousands in number, the city is our base and our foundation.


Your nation has traded at Canton for more than a century, during which it may be said that between you and ourselves, the Cantonese, there have been relations of friendship, and not of hostility.


The late affair of the Lorcha was a trifle; it was no case for deep-seated animosity; no great offence that could not be forgotten. Yet, you have suddenly taken up arms, and for several days you have been firing shell until you have burned dwellings, and destroyed people, in untold numbers. It cannot be either told, how many old people, infants, and females, have left their homes in affliction. If your countrymen have not seen this, they have surely heard, have they not, that such is the case! What offence has been committed by the people of Canton that such calamity should befall them!


Again it has come to our knowledge that you are insisting on official receptions within the city. This is doubtless with a view to amicable relations; but, when your only proceeding is to open a fire upon us which destroys the people, - supposing that you were to obtain admission into the city, - still, the sons, brothers, and kindred of the people whom you have burned out and killed, will be ready to lay down their lives to be avenged on your countrymen, nor will the authorities be able to prevent them. The authorities are able to accord you admission into the city, but they are not able to assure to such of your countrymen as do enter a perfect security from harm. If then your countrymen were admitted, could you always have a large force here for their protection. A protecting force cannot remain here for any great length of time, and if death and wounds were to be your condition of entering it, what boon would admission to the city be, even if you were to obtain it.


There is another point: - although shell have been flying against the city for several days, burning buildings and destroying life, no fire has been returned by the troops; this is friendly and conceding. It is enough to content you, and as you resorted to hostilities for a small matter, so now* for the sake of the peoples’ lives you may suspend them: and considering what has been achieved at the present stage of proceedings there allow them to terminate. Why add another difficulty to the existing one, and so cause an interruption in the friendly understanding between our two countries!


To conclude it is not well to trust power too far, neither is it right to let a feud so confirm itself that it cannot be ended. There is one point of which you loose sight; you do not remember that our authorities are subject to promotion, translation and similar changes of office, which may remove them from Kwang-tung. In the twinkling of an eye its whole establishment may be changed: but the native trader has been here generation after generation, from father to son, from grandsire to grandson, for hundreds and thousands of years, without interruption of the line. You do not reflect upon the distant future – that to inflict injury on the Canton people is to make enemies of thousands and millions of men, - that the longer the feud endures, the deeper rooted it will be, - that the more protracted the struggle, the more impetuous will be the zeal for it. It is in your power to go to the extreme length of injury that can be inflicted. To resolve on this is truculently to contemplate the extermination of every living being in Canton; - is to contemplate the total abandonment of its trade. What in that case would be your gain! And if resolved to go this length, how are you to dispose of the French, the Americans, and other foreign nations!


This is the unanimous declaration, made with sincerity and earnestness of the Cantonese. We submit it in the hope that your Excellency will deign to consider it, and we respectfully present our wishes for your Excellency’s peace and prosperity.

Representation made by the whole population of Canton.

Translated by Thomas Wade

Chinese Secretary

*Now – that is having now taken such ample satisfaction.

Return to Chapter 33

Appeal from Canton

Commanders and clippers