Flood of Fire | Chapter 28 of 29

Author: Amitav Ghosh | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 4931 Views | Add a Review

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In embarking on the task of writing a history of the Ibis community, the author had hoped to include an account of the materials on which his narrative is largely founded: that is to say Neel’s archive, by which is meant not only his notes and jottings but also the extensive collection of books, pictures and documents that he accumulated during the years in which he ran a printshop in Shanghai, in partnership with Compton (Liang Kuei-ch’uan).

For this author no part of this history is of greater interest than that of the archive’s survival: indeed, it was once his fond hope that this episode would provide the climactic tamám-shud to this chronicle. But to arrive at that story, in its proper temporal sequence, would require the narrative to move forward by almost a century – that is, to the years immediately preceding the Second World War, which was when Neel’s great-grandsons smuggled the most important parts of the archive out of China.

The unfortunate reality however is that ten years of diligent application have so far succeeded in advancing the narrative by only four years: from 1838 to 1841. Such being the case, with nearly a century’s-worth of events still to come, the author is compelled to acknowledge that it is highly unlikely that he will be able, in the years that remain to him, to provide a full account of the archive’s survival. But to tell this tale hurriedly, out of its proper order in the sequence of events, would, for him, be a betrayal of the enterprise: he would prefer that it remain forever untold than be related in such a fashion.

For the purposes of the present volume suffice it to say that the war in China dragged on for another fifteen months after Neel’s escape on the Ibis, in June 1841. Through this period Neel kept careful track of the movements of the British expeditionary force (now vastly expanded) as it advanced northwards in the direction of Beijing, successively attacking Xiamen, Zhoushan, Ningbo and Shanghai, thereby causing so much destruction and such extensive loss of life that the Daoguang Emperor was ultimately forced to authorize his representatives to capitulate to the invaders’ demands.

The most important of these concessions were: the formal ceding of Hong Kong; the opening of five ports to foreign trade; and the payment of an enormous indemnity, amounting to a total of twenty-one million silver dollars. The agreement that formalized this capitulation came to be known as the Treaty of Nanking and was signed on 29 August 1842, on the HMS Cornwallis (of which Neel wryly notes that ‘this ship, built in the Wadia shipyard in Bombay, was named after a man whose name will forever be preceded by the epithet “Butcher” – fitting that his remains lie in Ghazipur, a stone’s throw from the Opium Factory’).

The text of the treaty was widely circulated, in English, Chinese and other languages: an artist called Henry Cullen even produced a photographic print of it. Neel succeeded in acquiring a copy, at great expense, but it roused him to such a passion that he proceeded to deface it by scribbling comments in the margins, and by underlining certain passages – for example the provision that abolished the old Co-Hong trading system. A clause that attracted his special ire was that which required the British and Chinese governments to henceforth deal with each other on a ‘footing of equality’ through direct exchanges between their appointed representatives. Neel notes sardonically that, as so often when Westerners use words like ‘equality’, this clause was clearly intended to mean exactly the opposite of what it said: that it would be the British who would now dictate the terms of the relationship. He notes similarly, alongside the clause that required China to compensate the British for the costs and injuries of their invasion: ‘So it was the Chinese who had to pay for the catastrophe that had befallen their country!’

Curiously the clause that would later become the most famous passage in the treaty – that which formalized the handing over of Hong Kong – he deemed almost unworthy of comment, noting only: ‘But they had seized it already!’

Over the next decade Neel spared neither effort nor expense in acquiring materials related to the events that culminated in the Treaty of Nanking – that is to say, the conflict that would come to be known as the First Opium War (needless to add, the Second Opium War was to lead to an enormous expansion of Neel’s collection). Later Raju too would contribute significantly to the archive: a growing desire to fully comprehend the events he had lived through as a boy would eventually send him on a long search for materials on military matters – histories, manuals, dispatches, memoirs, maps and, especially, first-hand accounts of the battles that he had witnessed.

At the time of the archive’s removal from China the circumstances were such that many of the bulkier volumes had to be left behind or destroyed, in order to salvage Neel’s own writings. Fortunately both Neel and Raju were meticulous record-keepers: they maintained a detailed catalogue, not only of the materials that were actually in their possession, but also of those that they hoped to acquire (nor did they fail to list certain documents, like secret government reports, that were then barred from circulation).

Although this catalogue has survived, time has not been kind to it: some pages are torn, a few are missing; many entries have been obscured by patches of dampness and mildew; others have been consumed by worms, ants and weevils. However, from the fragments that remain it was possible to piece together a ‘virtual library’ of the sources that Neel would have used had he himself been able to write an account of these events. This compilation led the author to the following: The Annual Register or a View of the History and Politics of the Year 1841 (London, 1842); Capt. Sir Edward Belcher, Narrative of A Voyage Round the World Performed in Her Majesty’s Ship Sulphur During the Years 1836–42 Including Details of the Naval Operations in China (Henry Colburn, London, 1843); William Dallas Bernard and Sir William Hutcheon Hall, The Nemesis in China: comprising a history of the late war in that country; with a complete account of the colony of Hong-Kong (Henry Colburn, London, 1846); John Elliot Bingham, Narrative of the Expedition to China from the Commencement of the War to its Termination in 1842, Vols. I and II (Henry Colburn, London, 1843); Elijah C. Bridgman, Description of the City of Canton (Canton, 1834); A Catalogue of the Library Belonging to the English Factory at Canton in China (printed at the Hon. East India Company’s Press, Macao, 1819); The Chinese Repository, Vols. VII–X; The Sessional Papers Printed by Order of the House of Lords, Session 1840, Vol. VIII, Correspondence Relating to China (presented to Both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty, 1840, printed by T.R. Harrison, London, 1840); James Cuninghame, The Tactic of the British Army Reduced to Detail, with Reflections on the Science and Principles of War (London, 1804); Capt. Arthur Cunynghame, The Opium War, Being Recollections of Service in China (Philadelphia, 1845); Sir John F. Davis, Sketches of China (Charles Knight, London, 1836); Capt. F.B. Doveton, ‘Reminiscences of the Burmese War’, Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany, Vol. XL, New series, Jan.-Apr. (W.H. Allen, London, 1843); C. Toogood Downing, The Fan-qui in China’ in 1836–37, 3 vols. (Henry Coburn Publisher, London, 1838); Émile D. Forgues, La Chine Ouverte; Aventures d’un Fan-Kouei dans le Pays de Tsin, par Old Nick, ouvrage illustré par Auguste Borget (H. Fournier, Paris, 1845); Capt. and Adj. F.A. Griffiths, The Artillerists Manual and Compendium (Woolwich, 1839); A. Haussmann, ‘A French Account of the War in China’, United Service Magazine, Vol. 1, Vol. 71, (1853, pp. 50–63; 212–20; 571–80); William C. Hunter, The Fan-Kwae at Canton Before Treaty Days, 1825–1844; Line of March of a Bengal Regiment of Infantry in Scinde (Panorama) (Ackermann, London, 1830); Lord Jocelyn, Six Months with the Chinese Expedition or, Leaves from a Soldier’s Notebook (John Murray, London, 1841); Sir Andrew Ljungstedt, An Historical Sketch of the Portuguese Settlements in China; And of the Roman Catholic Mission in China (Boston, 1836); Capt. Granville G. Loch, The Closing Events of the Campaign in China: the Operations in the Yangtze-kiang and Treaty of Nanking (John Murray, London, 1843); D. McPherson, The War in China: Narrative of the Chinese Expedition (London, 3rd edn, 1843); Alexander Murray, Doings in China. Being the personal narrative of an Officer engaged in the late Chinese Expedition, from the recapture of Chusan in 1841, to the peace of Nankin in 1842 (London, 1843); Gideon Nye, The Morning of My Life in China: comprising an outline of the history of foreign intercourse from the last year of the regime of honorable East India Company, 1833 to the imprisonment of the foreign community in 1839, Canton, 1873; Peking, the Goal – the Sole Hope of Peace. Comprising an Inquiry into the Origin of the Pretension of Universal Supremacy by China and into the Causes of the First War; with incidents of the Imprisonment of the Foreign Community and of the First Campaign of Canton, 1841 (Canton, 1873); ‘Official Accounts of the Late Naval and Military Operations in China’, Calcutta Gazette, Extra, 7 Aug. 1841, reprinted in Nautical Magazine and Naval Chronicle (1841); Lt. John Ouchterlony, The Chinese War: An Account of all the Operations of the British War (1844); Reportfrom the Select Committee on the Trade with China (Parliamentary papers, 1840); John Phipps, A Practical Treatise on the China and Eastern Trade: Comprising the commerce of Great Britain and India, particularly Bengal and Singapore with China and the Eastern Islands (W. Thacker, Calcutta, 1836); Remarks on the Dress. Discipline & c. of the Bengal Army, by a Bengal Officer (Calcutta, 1798); John Lee Scott, Narrative of a Recent Imprisonment in China After the Wreck of the Kite (London, 1842); Samuel Shaw, The Journals of Major Samuel Shaw, the First American Consul at Canton, with a Life of the Author by Josiah Qincy (Boston, 1847); J. Lewis Shuck, Portfolio Chinensis: or A Collection of Authentic Chinese State Papers Illustrative of the History of the Present Position of Affairs in China (Macao, 1840); John Slade, Notices on the British Trade to the Port of Canton, with some Translations of Chinese Official Papers Relative to that Trade (Smith, Elder, London, 1830); John Slade, Narrative ofthe Late Proceedings and Events in China (Canton Register Press, Macao, 1840); Standing Orders For the Bengal Native Infantry, 2nd edn (Calcutta, 1840); Subedar Seetaram, From Sepoy to Subedar, trans. James Thomas Norgate (London, 1873); Statement of Claims of the British Subjects interested in Opium surrendered to Captain Elliot at Canton for the Public Service (London, 1840); Thayer Thatcher, A Sketch of the Life of D.W.C. Olyphant: Who Died at Cairo, June 10, 1851, with a Tribute to his Memory (Edward O. Jenkins, 1852); Henry Meredith Vibart, Military History of the Madras Engineers and Pioneers; From 1743 Up to the Present Time, Vol. II (W.H. Allen, London, 1883); Capt. John Williams, An Historical Account of the Rise and Progress of the Bengal Native Infantry from its First Formation in 1757 to 1796 When the Present Regulations Took Place (John Murray, London, 1817); and William John Wilson, History of the Madras Army, Vol. 2 (Govt. Press, 1882).

Neel’s catalogue has served as a tutelary hand for the present author: reaching out from the past it has guided him through several libraries and research institutions, among them the National Library of India, Kolkata; the British Library and the Greenwich Maritime Museum, London; the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut; the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts; and the library of Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois. The author would like to record here his gratitude for the courtesy and consideration that was extended to him at each of these institutions, by virtue of which he was able to locate a number of sources that Neel knew of but was unable to acquire. He also came upon some that neither Neel nor Raju were aware of because they were not publicly available in their lifetimes. Among these are the following: Captain P. Anstruther, Letter written by Capt. P. Anstruther, Madras Artillery, from Ship Rustomjee Cowasjee, Canton River, China to India, dated 12 March 1841; Maj. Mark S. Bell, China: Being a Military Report on the North-Eastern Portions of the Provinces of Chih-Li and Shan-Tung; Nanking and its Approaches; Canton and its Approaches; & c., & c., together with an account of the Chinese civil, naval and military administrations &c., &c., and a narrative of the wars between Great Britain and China; prepared in the Intelligence Branch of the Quarter Master General’s Department in India, from various sources, and notes taken during a reconnaisance of the neighbourhoods of Peking, Nanking and Canton, carried out in 1882, 2 vols.: Vol. I, Confidential; Vol. II, Secret (Government Central Branch Press, Simla, 1882); Rick Bowers, ‘Notes from the Opium War: Selections from Lieutenant Charles Cameron’s Diary During the Period of the Chinese War 1840–41’, Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, Autumn 2008, Vol. 86, N. 347, pp. 190–203; Colin Campbell, Journal (1816); Edward H. Cree, The Cree Journals: The Voyages of Edward H. Cree, Surgeon RN as related in his private journals, 1837–1856 (Webb & Bower, Exeter, 1981); John C. Dann, The Nagle Journal; A diary of the life of Jacob Nagle, sailor, from the year 1775 to 1841 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, New York, 1988); Lt. Henry Dundas, Personal diary written in retrospect of his time on the China coast on board HMS Calliope, Cornwallis and Clio ( Jan. 1841–Oct. 1844); M.L. Ferrar, The Diary of Colour-Serjeant George Calladine, 19th Foot, 1793–1837 (London, 1922); Frontier and Overseas Expeditions from India, Vol VI (Anon, Intelligence Branch, Army HQ, India, c.1913, reprinted Mittal Publications, Delhi); Thomas Gardiner, Journal kept on 3 voyages to Bengal and China on the EIC’s ships, 1829–30; Capt. H. Giffard, Diary of events, HMS Volage & Cruiser; Bengal Military Letters Received (1840); Bengal Military Letters Received (1841); Plan of Attack on the Heights and Forts near the City of Canton Under the Command of Major General Sir Hugh Gough, 25th May 1841, Sd. Lt. W.S. Birdwood (bequeathed by Lord Broughton in 1869); Sketch [Map] of the Operations against Canton, January to March 1841; Madras Despatches 12 Jan to 29th June 1842; Madras Despatches 4 Jan to 28th Aug 1839; Madras Despatches 1st Jan to 2nd July 1841; China Foreign Office Instructions and Correspondence, Secret Dept, 1841; India and Bengal Despatches 12th Jan to 30th March 1842; India and Bengal Despatches 13th July to 1st Sept 1841; Madras Despatches 4th Nov 1818 to 21st Apr 1819; Madras Despatches 3rd May 1826 to 21st March 1827; Board’s Collections 8675 to 8750 1812–13, Vol. 359; Board’s Collections 19297 to 19375,1823–1824; Richard Glasspoole, A Brief Narrative of my Captivity and Treatment Amongst the Ladrones (London, 1935); William C. Hunter, Journal of the Occurrances at Canton, 1839 (reprinted from the Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol. 4, 1964); Phyllis Forbes Kerr, Letters From China: The Canton-Boston Correspondence of Robert Bennet Forbes, 1838–1840 (Mystic Seaport Museum, Mystic, CT, 1996); Daniel Irving Larkin (ed.), Dear Will: Letters from the China Trade 1833–36 (Amherst (self-published), 1987); Pamela Masefield (ed.), The Land of Green Tea: Letters and Adventures of Colonel C.L. Baker of the Madras Artillery 1834–50 (Unicorn Press, 1995); Ian Nish (ed.), British Documents on Foreign Affairs: Reports and Papers from the Foreign Office Confidential Print, Part 1, Series E. Asia, Vol. 16, Chinese War and its Aftermath, 1839–49 (Univ. Publications of America, Frederick, Md., 1994); E.H. Parker, A Chinese Account of the Opium War (Shanghai, 1888 (a translation of an account by Wei Yuan)); Sylvia Parnham, ‘My Dear Mother … sell not my old close!’: Gunner John Luck’s Letters from India 1839–44 (London, 1983); Sylvia Parnham and Duncan Phillips (eds.), ‘The Canton Letters 1839–1841 of William Henry Low’, The Essex Institute Historical Collections, LXXXIV (1948).

The present author has had the advantage of Neel and Raju in one important respect which is that he happens to be writing at a time of an extraordinary efflorescence of scholarship on many subjects that touch upon the experiences of the Ibis community. He has therefore been able to draw upon the work of a great number of scholars and experts, among them the following: Ravi Ahuja, Robert Antony, Patricia Barton, Pradeep Barua, Alan Baumler, Chris Bayly, Jack Beeching, David Bello, N. Benjamin, Gregory Blue, Timothy Brook, B.R. Burg, Antoinette Burton, W.Y. Carman, Annping Chin, Lorenzo M. Crowell, John C. Dann, Santanu Das, Mary Des Chene, David Deterding, Frank Dikotter, Stephen Dobbs, Jacques M. Downs, Hal Empson, Peter Ward Fay, H.G. Gelber, Durba Ghosh, L. Gibbs, Jos J.L.Gommans, Nile Green, Raffi Gregorian, D.A. Griffiths, Amalendu Guha, Deyan Guo, David Harris, James Hevia, Susan Hoe, Edgar Holt, James W. Hoover, Laura Hostetler, Paul Howard, Ronald Hyam, Raphael Israeli, Hunt Janin, Graham E. Johnson, John Keegan, David Killingray, B.B. Kling, Elizabeth Kolsky, P.C. Kuo, Haiyan Lee, Peter Lee, Philippa Levine, Heike Liebau, Elma Loines, D.N. Lorenzen, Julia Lovell, Joyce Madancy, Rachel P. Maines, Keith McMahon, Glenn Paul Melancon, Steven B. Miles, James H. Mills, Yong Sang Ng, David Omissi, C.J. Peers, Douglas M. Peers, Roger Perkins, Glen D. Peterson, William R. Pinch, Rajesh Rai, John L. Rawlinson, Stuart Reid, J.F. Richards, Derek Roebuck, Franziska Roy, Kaushik Roy, Geoffrey Sayer, Narayan Prasad Singh, Jonathan Spence, Peter Stanley, Heather Streets, Paul A. Van Dyke, Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi, Frederick Jr. Wakeman, Erica Wald, Arthur Waley, Betty Peh-T’i Wei, Channa Wickremesekera, Lawrence Wang-chi Wong, Don J. Wyatt, Anand Yang, Tan Tai Yong and Yangwen Zheng.

The author would like to express his gratitude to all the above-named for they have each opened a window into the world of this book. He would be remiss however if he did not acknowledge the special debt that he owes to the work of the following: Seema Alavi, Joseph S. Alter, Amiya Barat, Dilip Basu, Kingsley Bolton, Hsin-Pao Chang, Tan Chung, Amar Farooqui, D.H.A. Kolff, Thomas W. Laqueur, Lydia Liu, Matthew W. Mosca, Jean Stengers, Carl A. Trocki, Madhukar Upadhyaya and Anne van Neck.

The author has been fortunate also in being able to avail himself of the help and guidance of a number of other scholars, students and independent researchers; he would like particularly to record his gratitude to the following: Shahid Amin, Clare Anderson, Prasenjit Duara, J. Daniel Elam, Dilip Gaonkar, Shernaz Italia, Ashutosh Kumar, Rajat Mazumder, Robert McCabe, Ashim Mukherjee, Dinyar Patel, Rahul Srivastava, Mihoko Suzuki and J. Peter Thilly.

To everyone named here the author extends his pranaams and salaams, while exonerating them of any culpability for whatever is objectionable or blameworthy in this account, the responsibility for which he claims solely for himself.

As to his family, immediate and extended, to thank them would be absurd since it is their shared history that has made possible this telling (which, needless to add, has as yet scarcely begun …)


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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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