Oct 10, 2022
Last time we spoke, the ironclad steam warship Nemesis had made a name for herself wrecking havoc upon the Qing navy. Lin Zexu was dismissed and Qishan began negotiations with the British. Hong Kong island was now under British occupation, Chuanbi fell to the British and it seems a treaty would be ratified but both the Emperor Daoguang and Britain's parliament rejected it forcing Britain to continue its war. The British attacked the Bogue, the First Bar island, Whampoa Island and soon Qishan was rushed to Beijing and cast into chains by the Emperor. Then the British attacked Canton hoping to force the Qing government to come to a deal. Emperor Daoguang was being fed false reports from his officials of the ongoing war, but how long could they delude him until everyone realized this was a serious war?
This episode is the First Opium War Part 3: treaty of nanjing
Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.
As usual the reports coming back to the emperor were embezzled. It was said the British were stopped at the walls of Canton by the army of General Fang and repelled. In fact, on top of the Qing forces beating back the British it was said a peasant militia had killed thousands of British forcing them to flee Canton. Some went further than this and said the British expedition was on its last legs. Yishan’s report to the Emperor said “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."The Qing court urged the emperor to build upon the great victory and to bring an even larger army into the field against the barbarians.
Now that the factory quarter was secure, Elliot turned his attention back to Amoy, but he still had a large problem. The British force was full on facing an epidemic of malaria and dysentery causing numerous casualties. The British warships were becoming hospitals for the countless decimated troops. Elliot had to take the force to Hong Kong island to treat the men. On July 21 of 1841 while Elliot was forming plans to attack Amoy a merchantman from India arrived with opium and a copy of the Canton Press. The newspaper read that Elliot had been dismissed by Palmerston on April 30th of 1841! It turned out the British press had vilified Elliot for making truces with the Chinese instead of pushing for a decisive victory. The Canton truce was lambasted because the 6 million was just a fraction of their demands. Elliot sent word back to Palmerston to ask why he was being dismissed and got a reply. “Throughout the whole course of your proceedings, you seem to have considered that my instructions were waste paper, which you might treat with entire disregard, and that you were at full liberty to deal with the interests of your country according to your own fancy.”. Elliot would make a public statement “it has been popularly objected to me that I have cared too much for the Chinese. But I submit that it has been caring more for lasting British honour and substantial British interests to protect a helpless and friendly people”.
Even Queen victoria made a statement about Elliot when she wrote to her uncle King Leopold of Belgium “All we wanted might have been got, if it had not been for the unaccountably strange conduct of Charles Elliot, who completely disobeyed his instructions and trie to get the lowest terms he could”. Sir Henry Pottinger, a diplomat and veteran of the Afghan wars replaced Elliot as superintendent of Trade and given an annual salary of 6000 pounds, twice that of Elliots to rub it in. Sir William Parker was also sent to be commander in chief and both he and Pottinger held impressive resumes and vast military experience. Pottinger served during the Napoleonic wars as a cabin boy at the age of 12 and then later joined the Indian army. Parker at the age of 31 retired with the rank of captain and a large fortune in prize money from the French ships he captured during the Napoleonic wars. Parker had been spending 15 years on his estate in Litchfield as a gentleman farmer before being called out of retirement by Palmerston.
Parker and Pottinger arrived in August of 1841 and were met graciously by Charles Elliot before he left with his family back home to England. The opium smugglers were delighted to finally be rid of Charles Elliot and his moralistic distaste for the opium trade. They had hoped the new guys would be more amenable than Elliot and were in for quite a shock. One of the first things Pottinger did was tell the residents of Canton “could allow no consideration connected with mercantile pursuits…to interfere with the strong measures which he might deem necessary, and if they put either themselves or their property in the power of the Chinese authorities, it must be clearly understood to be at their own risk and peril.”. While Elliot was argued to be a Sinophile, Pottinger was the very opposite a Sinophobe. Pottinger did not have any understanding of Chinese culture nor their protocol for saving face in dealings. When the governor of canton came to greet Pottinger in Macao, Pottinger simply sent a subordinate to meet the man insulting him greatly.
On August 21 of 1841 the British armada was 32 ships strong, with 4 regiments of over 27,000 men aboard them. Pottinger left 1350 men to garrison Hong Kong and sailed for Amoy (present day Xiamen). Amoy was a granite island around 300 miles north of Macao and not really of any value, it was quite barren, but it was closer to Beijing and thus a threat to Emperor Daoguang. Amoy had been fortified by the Qing recently, they built a few batteries on Gulangyu island which lies just off the coast of Amoy and they prepared defenses all along Amoy’s coast. Amoys coast held 96 embrasures and over 200 cannons to defend its harbor. Then the Qing sent a force to garrison it, adding an additional 42 cannons and 10,000 troops. Gulangyu island’s batteries had 76 cannons including some more modern artillery smuggled over from singapore.
The British armada first made contact with Gulangyu island as it protected the approach to Amoy and the Druid, Blonde and Modeste blasted its fortifications from 400 yards away. As was typical of this war, the cannons at Amoy and Gulangyu were antiquated and in fixed positions. To give you a visual idea of the issue, these cannons could not swivel well, they were basically fixed to the ground, greatly hampering range and accuracy. Thus when the British ships began to bombard them they could not effectively return fire. After 90 minutes of bombardment, the Qing cannons went silent and the British began landing troops without any opposition. Major General Gough disembarked from Nemesis by 3:45pm as Amoy’s batteries were neutralized and 26 chinese war junks in the harbor were put out of commission. Despite the ferocity of the British bombardment , Amoy’s fortresses cannons began opening fire upon the troops and Gough personally led a bayonet charge towards the fortresses southern wall.
The Qing soldiers on the fort began to fire their matchlocks at the British but were overwhelmed by the enemy's gunfire. Soon many of the Qing soldiers routed and when the Qing commander realized the situation was hopeless he marched straight into the sea committing suicide by drowning himself. The reports going back to Emperor Daoguang were “that the Manchu commander rushed out to drive back the assailants as they landed, fell into the water and died” sort of a positive spin on the story. The British forces scaled the forts walls and opened its gates. Inside the fort the British found a large number of opium pipes lying beside the cannons its alleged. When the British found Amoy’s treasury they found a record indicating that there were thousands of silver taels, but none were to be found. It turned out the Qing officials had snuck the silver out before the British arrived. Pottinger took no time ordering the armada to refit and continue sailing north, now he wanted to make up for Elliot’s giving away of Chusan.
On September 25 of 1841, the armada assembled to attack the fort of Dinghai on Chusan for a second time. Dinghai was much better fortified than Amoy and held more cannons. Dinghai’s garrison was commanded by General Keo who had a large number of Gingalls. Gingalls are quite interesting and a bit comical to look at. Google one up and you will understand immediately, try to imagine a giant gun that takes a tripod and 2 men to fire. The gingall was one of the most used weapons by the Qing during this part of the century and it was not very effective against the British. The defenders of Dinghai put up an impressive resistance as noted by the British. The British sent the 55th foot to assault them and took the Dinghai fort, losing 2 men with 28 wounded. When General Keo knew the British had won the battle he slit his own throat. The British found 100 iron guns, 36 outdated brass cannons and 540 gingalls in the fort indicated the capability of the Qing military. Pottinger wrote back to Palmerston to make his resolve adamantly clear “under no circumstance will Dinghai and its dependencies be restored to the Qing government, until the whole of the demands of England are not only complied with, but carried into full effect”.
Catastrophe hit again when the British ship Nerbudda transporting some British and Indian soldiers went aground off Taiwan. The British soldiers fled in lifeboats leaving the Indians behind who spent 5 days on ship until dehydration and starvation forced them to go ashore on rafts. The Qing forces in Taiwan seized them and imprisoned them. In march, an opium ship named the Ann also went aground on Taiwan and 14 of her survivors were imprisoned alongside the Indians from Nerbudda. The Qing officials were desperate for good news and sent reportes to the Emperor that a large naval battle had been won at Taiwan and 2 ships were sunk. Emperor Daoguang was delighted and rewarded the Taiwan officials with honors and silver.
Meanwhile the British armada left a garrison at Dinghai and sailed for Jintai which lies 10 miles east of the mainland. They began to bombard Jintai’s forts on October 10 and it proved to be a difficult task as its forts were atop a large cliff. Around 4000 Qing troops garrisoned the city, quite a few were Mongol bannermen. Major General Gough sent a force of 15000 men to flank the fort on the cliff while Wellesley and Blenhem covered their march with bombardment. By the afternoon the British had 3 men dead and 16 wounded, but as they allegedly killed several hundred Chinese. Jintai was taken by the late afternoon and the Qing commander Yukien attempted to drown himself, but having failed to do so committed suicide by overdosing on opium. The British captured around 150 cannons and noticed amongst the majority which were antiquated, the usual sort they kept finding, a few were state of the art. The Qing were replicating the British style cannons it seemed. Many prisoners were taken, but Gough had to let them go; he simply did not have enough men to spare to guard them. Yet before letting the POW’s go, the British attempted a rather heinous act. The British marines used their jackknives to cut off the Manchu queues of the Qing prisoners as take away gifts. Before too many of these marines were able to do so, to the credit of Gough he ran to the scene to stop the act.
After securing Jintai, the British sent Nemesis up the Yung River and soon discovered it was crossable and that they could navigate it to get to Ningbo. On October 13th, the British armada landed troops on Ningbo 10 miles southeast of Jintai. Ningbo’s gates opened for them without a fight as the Royal Irish band played “saint patrick's day in the morning”. The British found the building that held the prisoners from the Kite and burned down the prison. Pottinger wrote to Palmerston that he “looked forward with considerable satisfaction to plundering Ningbo as a reprisal for the maltreatment there of British prisoners” and that is just what he did. The British looted 160,000 in funds and placed a 10% taxation on its citizens. Pottinger also confiscated provisions, Chinese ships, property and the main Pagoda’s bell as a prize sent back to India. The Qing authorities left Ningbo and the British failed to set up any form of police and thus many looters ran rampant, Chinese and British alike. Gough and Parker were livid at the conditions, the inhabitants of Ningbo had opened the gates without a fight and should be left unmolested. They both argued Pottinger was allowing British honour to be stained at Ningbo.
Now while a lot of these victories seemed easy they were also pyrrhic in nature. Disease continuously reared its ugly head reducing the British troops. Every place they occupied had to be garrisoned and now they were down to 700 able men and had to winter in Ningbo. The humiliated and pissed off citizens of Ningbo began hurling rocks at the occupiers. Soon it became very apparent police were needed at Ningbo and thus a Qing official was set up as the chief of police named Yu Dechang. In reality the British were having Yu Dechang compile a list of the wealthiest residents of Ningbo so they could extort them for more money. Yu was also doing something else, he was spying for the Qing military who was currently massing troops outside Ningbo to retake the city!
Emperor Daoguang had taken up action as soon as reports came that Ningbo had fallen. He sent his cousin Prince Yijing to recruit an army to “drive the English into the sea”. Prince Yijing was a 48 year old general and a honored veteran of wars against Muslim rebels in Xinjiang province from a decade earlier. Yijing brought with him quite an unlikely band of literary scholars whose expertise lay in confucian teachings and not the art of war. The scholars also happened to be rampant opium addicts and were deemed by the British later to be “weekend warriors”.
On march 10th of 1842, Yijing had a force of 5000, mostly ill trained intellectual types. When they came to the gate of Ningbo they were met with a head impaled on a pike and a sign reading “this is the head of the Manchu official Lu Tai-lai who came here to obtain military information”. Prince Yijing was enraged and ordered his men to scale the walls and charge the center of the city. However the British had spies of their own who had warned them of the incoming assault force. The British had deliberately left the city's western city gate quasi open in order to give the impression they did not mean to defend it. In truth the western gate had been mined heavily and when the Qing rushed to it, the mines exploded killing many. Over in the southern gate the Qing pushed back some British defenders all the way up to the city center. British soldiers reported that the Qing attacks appeared to be visibly impaired by opium, including their 2nd in command General Zhang Yingyun who was leading the rearguard once the city was breached. In the city center Major General Gough with 150 men and a field artillery piece met Zhang’s force with massive gunfire. The artillery piece, a single howitzer tore the Qing troops to pieces at such a close range. Corpses began to pile apparently 15 feet high blocking the streets if you believe British sources. Not all of the Qing were these intellectual types by the way, there was a volunteer force of 150 aboriginal Chinese from Golden River. This group were not using matchlocks and instead pikes,swords and spears which were their favored weapons traditionally. The 150 unfortunate and very brave souls had rushed the British position and were completely annihilated. The British lost 5 men and reported to have inflicted up to 600 casualties upon the Qing. Bei Qingjiao a literary scholar with the Qing forces reported Zhang to behaving bizarrely during the battle in the city center. Bei reported that Zhang was commanding with an opium pipe in his mouth and collapsed in a narcotic daze. When his men began to rout, Zhang also abandoned the fight by crawling onto a litter and fleeing.
It was also reported the Qing forces had devised a rather comical military tactic during this battle. In order to destroy the British warships, some of the Qing wanted to throw monkeys holding firecrackers at the ships to set them ablaze. This was not the first time the idea was thought of during the first opium war by the way, though there is little evidence it ever occurred. There was also an idea put forward to sent Chinese merchants with smallpox contaminated meat to weakened the British prior to the attack, but General Yijing vetoed this plan deeming it to be too unethical.
The battle had a devastating psychological effect on the Qing military. They had suffered nearly 600 casualties and taken nearly no British down with them. The Qing commanders were realizing the British technological superiority was too significant and a defeatist mindset began to set into the Qing military as a whole. For failing to retake Ningbo, Emperor Daoguang sentenced Prince Yijing to death. Prince Yijing would escape death and instead was exiled to Turkestan.
When the Qing forces made their retreat from Ningbo and sent over 270 Chinese vessels to blockade Jintai, but it seems the commander of that force, Chen Tingchen did not want to risk an invasion and never landed troops. Instead they found a British shipwreck and salvaged pieces from it to sent to Beijing as proof they had won a great naval victory. Having failed to take Ningbo, the Qing began to poison its food supply which prompted the British to attack a village named Tzeki just up the river in retaliation where many Qing soldiers had fled to.
Pottinger returned to Hong Kong in February of 1842 and found the city transformed since he last saw it. Now it really looked like a westernized city, there was a four mile road, 2 dozen brothels and builders busy constructing everywhere. The tea trade was continuing in Canton and so was the opium trade. It was estimated every 4th ship that stopped at Hong Kong was carrying opium at this point. Another 100 ships were sent to China carrying thousands of troops. Gough went from having a force of 3000 to 10,000. By may of 1842 the hostilities would fire up again.
On may 18th, the British were sailing further north edging closer to Beijing to put pressure on the Emperor and came across Chapu, a town 75 miles northwest of Chusan island. Major General Gough divided his force of 2220 men into 3 groups with a right and left wing and artillery in the center. The British force landed on Chapu without resistance until they reached a joss house further inland. There were 300 Chinese barricaded inside the joss house who refused to surrender and fired upon the British inflicting casualties. The fight over the joss house went on for many hours as the British stormed parts of Chapu city bombarding its walls with artillery. Gough lost one of his senior officer Lt Colonel Nicholas Tomlinson who died leading a breaching party of the 18th Royal Irish storming the city. Aside from the Joss house fight and the initial breaches the battle went over quite well for the British as the Qing defenders had only seriously guarded one side of the city walls. In Goughs words after the battle “the enemy were completely taken by surprise as usual, they were unprepared for anything except a frontal attack. They gave way on all sides and took to flight, with the exception of a body of some 300 Tartar troops who seized a small joss-house and held it with indomitable pluck and perseverance”.
The Royal Irish were infuriated at the loss of their commander and wanted to kill POW’s, but British officers intervened. Instead the POW’s were subjugated to having their Manchu queues tied up together in groups of 8 to 10 men and marched in public after the city was officially captured. Despite this many POW’s were bayoneted. When the British found the main Qing barracks they found a horrid scene. The Manchu had a military tradition of not being taken alive and a large force of Manchu had committed suicide after poisoning their wives and children. Black and bloated faces were seen alongside soldiers with slit throats. The British reported 13 dead and 52 wounded taking the city while the Qing they claimed lost thousands.
Next the British sailed forth to attack Wusong which lay at the mouth of the Yangtze River. By taking Wusong they would be able to cut off the important second capital of Nanking from its riverway. They believed taking Nanking would bring the Qing to the bargaining table and would be easier than an attack on Beijing itself. They could also take Shanghai and cut its tax revenue to Beijing. On June 13th, the British armada made it to Wusong after being fired upon by forts along the Huangbu river, an estuary of the Yangtze which caused 3 deaths. They laid anchor off Wusong and began naval bombardments of its port on June 16th. After a few hours the Qing forts stopped returning fire and the British began landing troops to assault them. As was becoming typical, the Qing defenders had mostly fled during the cannon exchange but some stayed put to meet the invaders such as the Qing commander Chen Huacheng. Chen would go down fighting to the end as the British scaled the fort walls and occupied them. Hundreds of Qing soldiers were killed during the invasion and bombardments and by the late evening Wusong was occupied in full.
On June 19th, the British marched on Shanghai just a few miles south of Wusong. They found no sign of the enemy there, just 2 pieces of artillery left on the city's walls. The invaders scaled the walls and opened the gates as its residents fled the city. The residents of Shanghai bribed the British with 300,000 dollars to prevent looting, but the British officers simply let their men plunder. An eyewitness saw some of this pillaging go down. A wealthy and respected Qing official named Cao was living in a walled home with a courtyard in the suburbs of Shanghai when some British soldiers kicked down his front door. They began to loot the man's entire food supply and demanded of Cao to show them where he was hiding his silver. They put a knife to his throat and shouted “fan ping! Fan ping!” meaning “foreign cakes” an idiom for silver. Despite their belief the man was hiding silver about, they did not find any. Cao and his family lost all their food and to make matters worse after a few days some Chinese looters came by and stole some food Cao’s family had found. Cao was forced to go door to door begging for food to feed his family, but the city had been picked clean. Cao himself wrote “foreigners have contented themselves with loot and rape, but as the city fell without resistance there has been no general slaughter. They are pressing the people into their service to do all their heavy work, such as shifting gun emplacements and gunpowder. They take anyone, buddhist monks, notables, and well known people”.
Despite Shanghai's commercial and strategic importance, the British only occupied it for a week before marching towards Nanking. By taking Nanking they hoped to end the entire war, but between them and Nanking was the walled city of Zhengjiang around 50 miles west of Nanking.
Zhengjiang held around 1583 bannerman and 2700 Green Standard Army troops and by mid july the British were blockading the route between the Yangtze river and the grand canal. On the morning of July 21 the British landed 4 brigades and attacked Zhengjiang from 3 different directions. The 1st brigade of 2310 soldiers and supported by an artillery brigade made a frontal assault attacking a Qing army in front of Zhengjiang’s walls. The 2nd Brigade of 1832 men attacked Zhengjiangs western gate supported by a naval bombardment. The 3rd brigade consisting of 2155 soldiers attacked the northern gate.
At 7am the British 3rd brigade landed at Beigu mountain and its grenadiers charges the north gate as bannermen atop Zhengjaings walls fired down upon them using gingalls mounted on tripods. The 3rd brigade managed to set up artillery battered the defenders atop the walls who in the haste were trying to fire back with their own artillery. After an hour the artillery of the bannermen were knocked out and the British grenadiers bayonet charged the gate and scaled the walls bringing the fight to the wall tops.
The British 1st brigade landed and took some highlands near Jinshan and by 8am began to attack the Green standard army stationed outside the walls of Zhengjiang. When the 1st brigade began to battle the Green standard army, the British 2nd brigade stormed the western gate as the armada naval bombarded its walls. There were many houses in front of the western gate which the British occupied and fired from at the wall top defenders. The bannermen atop the walls desperately fired using gingalls upon the invaders but could not stop the British grenadiers from reaching the gate. British engineers blew up bombs using gunpowder at the west gate and it was soon breached.
The Green Standard army occupied with the 1st british brigade saw the city had been breached and fires were emerging. They assumed the city was a lost cause and the commander of the Green standard army ordered a retreat. Within the city the street fighting was fierce and the British third and second brigades managed to fight towards another pincering the bannermen within the city. The Manchu commander of the bannermen, General Hailin ordered the Manchu to kill themselves rather than fall to the enemy. Again families were poisoned and soldiers strangled or slit their throats. General Hailin gathered up all his court papers into a pile, sat upon the pile and lit himself on fire. Pottinger wrote of this scene “he was worthy of a nobler and better fate”. The non Manchu residents of the city did not share this view however as before his death General Hailin ordered all the non manchu residents executed on charges of treason. I am hardly qualified to explain this, but just know the animosity between the Manchu and Han Chinese at this time was particularly bitter. A poet named Zhu Shiyun who lived on the outskirts of Zhengjiang city gave an account of this event. Of General Hailin he wrote “Hailin was in a very excited state. All over the town he arrested harmless people on the ground that they were in league with the enemy. He handed them over to the Prefect to imprison and flog. It was only at the four gates that he had a cannon pointing outwards. Inside the city his whole activity consisted in arresting passersby on suspicion of their being traitors. Whenever women or children saw Manchu soldiers, they fled in terror, upon which the soldiers ran after them and slew them, announcing to Hailin that they had disposed of traitors , for which he gave them rewards. The Barbarians different and the same were now on both sides of the gates”. The British had around 40 dead, a hundred wounded and allege they killed perhaps a thousand Chinese.
In contrast to the Manchu led horror, public opinion in the city improved of the invaders on July 24th when the British hung a rapist and looter from their own ranks. They hung placards to the men warning anyone would face the same fate for such crimes. It should be said, both these men happened to be Indian, a noticeable pattern in this war, the blaming of everything upon Indian soldiers. By August 16, a proclamation was made officially forbidding looting oh and on September the 5th opium was proclaimed fully legal and traded to the residents.
Major General Gough used his artillery to blast holes in Zhengjians walls before taking the army to march onwards, making sure the city could be easily retaken later if need be. With the capture of Zhengjiang, the British gained control over the traffic upon the Yangtze river. The British quickly blockaded the Grand Canal paralyzing the region. The governor of Nanking, Yilibu sent word to the emperor summing up the situation “The Yangtze River is a region like a throat, at which the whole situation of the country is determined. Now they have already cut off our salt and grain transportation and stopped the communication of merchants and travelers. That is not a disease like ringworm, but a trouble in our heart and stomach.”. In addition to all of that, the path to march upon Nanking was now wide open. After that it was Beijing that could be marched upon!
Emperor Daoguang appointed Yilibu and a Manchu court official named Qiying to negotiate with the British. The emperor gave Qiying plenipotentiary power and ordered both men to do anything necessary to halt the British advance before it reached Beijing. Meanwhile the British were marching towards Nanking with naval forces sailing the river threatening to bombard the city. Yilibu quickly raised the white flag before a shot could be fired. Unlike previous Qing officials, both Yilibu and Qiying recognized the impending disaster should they embellish reports to the emperor. No they knew they had to tell him straight what was occuring to make sure they were not caught doing anything that would bite them in the ass later so to say. One of their first reports back to Emperor Daoguang to explain the situation in Nanking read “should we fail to ease the situation by soothing the barbarians, they will run over our country like beasts, doing anything they like”.
Yilibu approached the British displaying the typical arrogance the British had become accustomed to in China. Yilibu sent a low ranking soldier to meet Pottinger. Pottinger as you might remember was …well an asshole honesty, a complete sinophobe who knew not much about the rigid Qing protocol and its hierarchical nature, but he knew when he was being insulted. Pottinger declined the low ranking solider and demanded to meet with Yilibu himself, whom he assumed held plenipotentiary power. Pottinger accused the Qing of performing the same ruse they did with Elliot countless times, making promises without the emperors authority so they could just back out of them later. While Yilibu hesitated, Pottinger made a point by ordering attacks on local villages along the Yangtze river. Yilibu did not hold plenipotentiary power however and the Emperor quickly dispatched a seal to give it to him when Yilibu pleaded for it. As Yilibu stalled waiting for the seal, Pottinger brought up the steam warship Queen and trained her guns on the walls of Nanking and began setting up 18 howitzers on the beach to rain hell into the city. Yilibu panicked and sent his subordinate Zhang Xi to meet the British aboard the Queen.
Zhang Xi took a very aggressive stance with Pottinger demanding he stop his threatening actions or else. Pottinger replied he would attack Beijing after Nanking fell, a blunt message. Zhang Xi retorted that the British military successes were only due to the kindness and forbearance of the Emperor saying “who cannot bear to kill or injure human creatures. But if pushed too far would arm every inhabitant of the great empire to fight off the invaders”. The interpreter Thom looked at Zhang Xi and objected to saying his message to Pottinger and Zhang Xi screamed while pounding the table with his fists an spitting on the floor “you kill people everywhere, plunder goods, and act like rascals; that is very disgraceful; how can you say you are not rebellious?”. Zhang Xi was escorted off the ship after his outburst which honestly could have made the British attack Nanking at any moment, kinda a loose cannon of an official. Luckily on August 9th, Yilibu received the seal of plenipotentiary power just as the British brought Cornwallis into firing range of the city walls and landed troops to camp outside them.
On August 11, Yilibu offered 3 million off the bat to postpone the British attack upon Nanking, he even said Qiying would bring it himself to Queen Victoria. Pottinger agreed to postpone and begin negotiations. Yilibu then began the classic Chinese ploy of procrastination instead of negotiation. He hoped to weary the enemy down. When Pottinger sent Yilibu a treaty, he pretended to examine it, but in truth was just biding time. Then the British told him they would commence attacks on August 13th. Yilibu was cornered now, he begrudgingly made an appearance aboard the Queen and promised to begin serious negotiations if the British called off the attack. Yilibu and other emissaries met for 4 days traveling back and forth from ship to shore until Yilibu agreed to terms. However despite his potentiary powers, Yilibu argued he still had to send a copy of the treaty to the Emperor for approval. Basically the terms were so terrible he knew he was facing death if he just signed off on them. The British understood Yilibu’s predicament and allowed for this, then they invited him and his colleagues aboard Cornwallis on August 20th to wine and dine them. They served the Chinese tea and cherry brandy and Yilibu and Qiying put on a show of Qing manners by bowing before a painting of Queen Victoria. Macartney, Napier and Amherst probably smiling from their graves.
While Yilibu awaited Beijing’s approval, Pottingers spoke to him about the opium trade. At first Yilibu refused to discuss the subject all together, until Pottinger told the interpreter to tell him the meeting would be kept secret. Then Yilibu explained the decades of hardship opium had brought upon the Qing dynasty and suggested a common solution. Why could the British simply stop the production of the crop in its held parts of India? Pottinger replied that the Americans, French or some other nation would simply take up the business and added “If your people are virtuous, they will desist from the evil practice; and if your officers are incorruptible, and obey their orders, no opium can enter your country.”. Yilibu quickly realized the opium issue was a deal breaker and dropped the matter.
Yilibu was under terrible stress, while he was dealing with the British he was simultaneously receiving orders from Beijing to not meet with the British until they sailed away from Nanking. Yilibu ignored these imperial edicts and continued negotiations which was quite brave of him. When the British demanded Fuzhou be opened to British trade, Beijing ordered him not to allow it, but Yilibu ignored that order, also accepting the term.
The result of the negotiations was the Treaty of Nanking and it represented a total diplomatic defeat for the Qing dynasty. The original demand for 6 million in reparations for the 20,000 chests of confiscated opium and the cost for Britain's war reparations ballooned to a sum of 21 million. That was half of China’s yearly tax revenues back then. Yilibu accepted the amount to be paid in installments. The British gained everything they wanted except for the legalization of the opium trade in China. Despite written instructions from Lord Palmerston to “strongly impress upon the Chinese plenipotentiaries how much it would be to the interest of that Government to legalize the trade,” Pottinger did not press upon the issue after receiving a message from Emperor Daoguang through Yilibu “gainseeking and corrupt men will for profit and sensuality defeat my wishes, but nothing will induce me to derive revenue from the vice and misery of my people.”. The Emperor Daoguang refused to agree to a formal recognition of the treaty and sent another letter to Yilibu to give Pottinger “Our nations have been united by friendly commercial intercourse for 200 years. How then, at this time, are our relations so suddenly changed, as to be the cause of a national quarrel from the spreading of the opium poison? Multitudes of our Chinese subjects consume it, wasting their property and destroying their lives. How is it possible for us to refrain from forbidding our people to use it?”. The Qing government did not want to admit publicly that a shocking amount of the Chinese population were suffering from opium addiction.
On August 27th of 1842 Beijing approved what it thought to be the complete text of the treaty of nanking. The draft was signed on August 29th aboard the Cornwallis and Yilibu was so sick he had to be carried onto the British ship to sign it. The signatories, Yilibu, Qiying, Parker, Gough and Pottinger gathered in the cabin of Cornwallis as the seals were fixed. A lunch was served afterwards as the Qing banner and Union Jack flew on Cornwallis's masts. Qiying insisted on stuffing Pottinger’s mouth with a candied plum at dessert time stating it was a Manchu custom and symbol of agreement. An English crewmember who witnessed this said “I shall never forget Sir Henry's face determined resignation”. The Qing left after lunch and despite Qiyings playfulness with the plums it masked their despair at the terms of the treaty. The British had agreed to give back Chusan and Amoy after the reparations were paid in full. They demanded access for trade and permanent residence at the ports of Canton, Amoy, Fuzhou, Ningbo and Shanghai. Each port had to have a British consular official and the limited trade through the Cohong system was to be abolished. The pretense that Britain was a tributary inferior nation to the Qing dynasty was to be abolished and now they were to be treated as equal nations. Hong Kong island was to be a permanent British colony and Nanking would be blockaded by Britain's armada until the first reparation payment of 6 million was paid. Yilibu was so terrified of the Emperor he sent an edited version of the Treaty of Nanking to Beijing omitting the points the Emperor and screamed not to allow.
The British flotilla at Nanking remained for several weeks until the British crews began to all get sick. By october 12 of 1842 the 6 million was paid and the British fleet departed Nanking. Those shipwrecked prisoners from the Ann and Nerbudda would become unfortunate victims. The Daoguang emperor ordered their execution and on August 10th the captives were taken 3 miles outside the city walls and executed. As reported in the Chinese repository a publication in Canton All the rest—one hundred and ninety-seven [prisoners]—were placed at small distances from each other on their knees, their feet in irons and hands manacled behind their backs, thus waiting for the executioners, who went round, and with a kind of two-handed sword cut off their heads without being laid on a block. Afterwards their bodies were all thrown into one grave, and their heads stuck up in cages on the seashore.
Pottinger threatened retaliation for the massacre but the governor of Canton Yiliang said he arrested the ring leaders and they would be punished at Beijing for their crimes. Back in Britain the Treaty of Nanking was hailed, the Illustrated London News crowned “it secures us a few round millions of dollars and no end of very refreshing tea. It gives an impetus to trade, cedes us one island in perpetuity, and in short puts that sort of climax to the war which satisfies our interests more than our vanity and rather gives over glory a preponderance to gain,”. The London Times hailed it and the British fleet “early victorian vikings”.
Much like the Treaty, the press made no mention of the reason why the war occurred, ie the illicit opium trade. Now Hong Kong island would fill its function as an offloading point for opium. Despite the Qing governments best efforts, demand in China rose for opium and it continued to flood into China. Many in the British parliament wanted to abolish the trade and many tried. In the end most paid lip service to it. An Order in Council gave Pottinger the power to “forbid the opium traffic in Hong Kong.” Pottinger paid lip service by issuing a lukewarm threat on August 1, 1843: “Opium being an article the traffic in which is well known to be declared illegal and contraband by the laws and Imperial Edicts of China, any person who may take such a step will do so at his own risk, and will, if a British subject, meet with no support or protection from HM Consuls or other officers.” The Opium merchants ignored Britain's sanctions and efforts to stop them were laughable. The Opium trade continued to thrive in China and the end of the First Opium war had done nothing to end the controversy over the illegal trade. Jardine and Mathson both left China and entered parliament as staunch Whig supporters. Their Chinese counterpart Howqua died of diarrhea a year after the signing of the treaty of nanking. Howqua most likely died the richest man on Earth at the time. Lin Zexu was eventually forgiven by the Emperor in 1845 and assigned a new post but died near Canton in 1850 before he could return to service. Emperor Daoguangs wrath over the treaty of Nanking fell unevenly. Qiying was still in his favor, while Yilibu was sent into exile in chains.
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And so the Qing dynasty sued for peace, but at what cost? The underlying problem had not changed, that of Opium. Could China rid itself of the illicit substance or what conflict rear its ugly head yet again?