Read CHAPTER XIV of Letters and Journals of James‚ Eighth Earl of Elgin, free online book, by James‚ Eighth Earl of Elgin, on ReadCentral.com.

SECOND MISSION TO CHINA. HOMEWARD.

The first part of the homeward voyage, along coasts already so well known, offered little to dwell upon except the thankful recollection of what had been accomplished, and the joyful anticipation of happy meetings to come. The journal contains the following entries:

’Ferooz,’ Gulf of Pecheli. November 27th. So far on my way home. I left Tientsin on the 25th at about 7 A.M. We had to plough our way through ice until we reached the Taku Forts, at 8.30 P.M. We found the Admiral in the ‘Coromandel.’ He was very civil, and would have given me accommodation for the night; but I had so many people with me, that I thought it better to push on; so at about midnight we crossed the bar of the Peiho river. There was so much broken ice on the inner side of it, that it reminded one of some of the pictures of the arctic voyages. We forced our vessel through a little Indian river-boat and found on the outside enough sea to make us very glad when we reached the ‘Ferooz’ at 2.30 A.M. It was about 4 A.M. when I was able to lie down to rest. Since then we have been waiting for Parkes, who stayed at Tientsin for a letter from Pekin about the opening of the Yangtze river, which I am anxious to take with me to Shanghae. ... Yesterday was a lovely day; a bright sun, and the air frosty enough to stimulate one to walk briskly. This morning there was a strong gale from the north-west, but it subsided after midday. I had a very satisfactory time at Tientsin. We got through a good deal of business; and, what is most pleasant to me, Frederick seems perfectly satisfied with the whole affair, and the part I have taken in it. ... The Admiral, who is very strong in support of me, had given orders that the whole fleet should be illuminated with blue lights, if I reached the ‘Ferooz’ at night. This I did not know, or I should not have chosen so unseasonable an hour. The consequence was that the illumination was not complete, but it had a fine effect so far as it went. Scores of transports have taken their departure, which is a great blessing, for they have been costing fabulous sums. Too many troops are still left; but I hope soon to get them reduced.

November 28th. Two P.M. We are off. All the vessels in the English fleet here manned yards and saluted as we passed; and, when we reached the French fleet, all the yards were manned, and the Admiral saluted. I thought we could not do less than return the latter. It was all a very fine sight, the day being favourable. Parkes arrived last night while we were at dinner, but without the letter which he had waited for. The latter, however, reached me this morning, and is very satisfactory; so that I shall have accomplished the great object of opening the Yangtze to trade.

After a few days of ‘lovely weather,’ enjoyed to the full in the ’Ferooz’ ’certainly a most splendid yacht such a fine deck, and quieter than a Royal Navy vessel’ he reached Shanghae on the 3rd of December.

Shanghae. December 4th. We reached this place at 3 P.M. yesterday. I have received your letters to October 9th. How I grieve for your anxiety about Bruce’s illness! How glad I am he is near the ’s. He could not be watched over by kinder friends.

Eagerly as he desired to hurry homewards he found it necessary to stay at Shanghae for some weeks, in order to complete the detailed arrangements for opening the river Yangtze to British traders, and also to settle the awkward question of the relations which should subsist between the British residents, and the Chinese Rebels in their neighbourhood.

Shanghae. December 14th. I am a good deal puzzled about my departure. The opening of the Yangtze and the Rebel question are serious matters, and I do not like to leave them unsettled: on the other hand, I can hardly, even if I were so inclined, remain here till they are settled. I think it will end in my staying till the next mail comes in from the North.

Sunday, December 16th. Eight A.M. The mornings are lovely here now; a bright sun, rising about half-past six; and not exactly frost, but a mere hint of its presence in the air. I take walks, and have just returned from one; generally the tour of the race ground, which is the only walk here. While I humbly pace along, the clerks of the Hongs such of them at least as are careful of their healths, and moderate in their supper arrangements flaunt past me on their chargers. I march on, thinking whether it would not in a new existence be advisable to begin life as a tea-taster.

December 21st. The wind has changed to the north, and my walk this morning was a colder one. Yesterday I made a tour of the town of Shanghae, and find that the French, by way of protecting it, burnt down about one-half of the suburbs during the summer. They have destroyed it to a greater extent than we destroyed Canton in 1857 by our bombardment. ‘Save me from my friends,’ the poor Chinaman may well say. The French have some method in their madness, for they want the ground of the burnt district, and they insist on having it now at the cost of the land, ‘as there are no houses upon it.’ At Canton, in the same way, they have seized land in the most unjustifiable way, to build churches on.

Shanghae. December 31st. Yesterday was a torrent of rain, and I never left the house. As I have a comfortable room, and no great interruptions, I get through a good deal of my reading. ... There was a fortnight of the ‘Times’ to begin with. The Reviews. ... Trollope’s novel of ‘Dr. Thorne;’ ‘Aurora Leigh’ (which I admire greatly); then Sir Robert Wilson’s ‘Russian Campaign,’ which contains some curious revelations; Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species,’ which is audacious; &c. &c. In short, you will allow that I have not been quite idle during the fortnight.

January 1st, 1861.-This is the first time I sign the new year. May it bring much happiness to you!... It was introduced here by dancing. But I was not in a lively humour, and retired as soon as I could.... No mail yet, and I would start without it, were it not that I expect three mails by it.

At length, on the 4th of January, he writes, ’Hurrah! I am off, with a fair wind.’ On the 8th he reached Hong-Kong, where he found little to detain him; the most important matter being the formal taking possession, in the Queen’s name, of the recently ceded peninsula of Kowloon.

Hong-Kong. January 10th. I presume, from the apologetic tone of a speech (very civil in itself) made by Lord J. Russell in the city, and quoted in the ‘Home News,’ that I was being well abused in England when the mail left. It is all miserable enough, but I had rather that it had blown over before I reach home, as I might seem to reflect on others if I defended myself, and you say truly that we have had enough of that kind of thing.

January 15th. I find that the new Factory site [at Canton], about
which I had such a fight with the merchants last time, is a great
success. Its merit is now acknowledged by the blindest.

In a subsequent letter, referring to the last days of his stay at Hong-Kong, he wrote:-

We had a sort of ceremonial on Saturday the 19th. I went to Kowloon, and proclaimed formally the annexation of that territory to the dominions of the Queen. This acquisition, the good site at Canton, and the opening-up of the North of China and Japan, have added at least twenty per cent. to the value of European life in China.

On the 21st of January he bade a final adieu to the shores of China, and directed his course to Manila; desiring to avoid this time the dreary line to Singapore which he had traversed so often, and attracted also by the new fields which the Spanish and Dutch colonies offered for his observation.

At Sea, near Manila. January 24th. I wrote a very shabby line to you as I was leaving Hong-Kong, but it may not perhaps be an unwelcome one, as it informed you I had started. We have had rough weather, and I take up my pen to-day for the first time. We are now under the lee of some of the Philippines, so we get less of the great swell which has been rolling down from the north-east, and of the gale which blows during this monsoon down the channel that separates the island of Formosa from the Philippines as through a funnel.

Manila. January 26th, Eight A.M. I sent off a few lines to you yesterday, to tell you of my very inopportune arrival off this town, at a moment when all the world, functionaries, &c., are on tiptoe expecting a new Captain-General to make his appearance at any hour. However, Castilian hospitality is not to be taken in default, and at 4 P.M. we landed with great ceremony, and after being conducted to the palace, and exchanging a few glances with the acting Governor, who cannot speak a word of any language known to me, I was shown a magnificent suite of apartments destined for me and my following, and then conveyed for a drive in one of the carriages-and-four (vide Sir J. Bowring’s book), escorted by a guard of lancers. It is very curious to see a state of things so different from ours. Such a number of troops; gens-d’armes on horseback; not a person meeting us (the Governor-General was with me) who did not take off his hat. At dinner I sat next the Admiral, who also speaks nothing but Spanish; so we passed our time in looking at each other unutterable things.

Ten A.M. I have just got rid of my uniform, in which I thought it proper to attire myself in order to receive all the officers, naval and military, who came at nine o’clock to pay their respects. I had strolled out much earlier incognito, and wandered into several churches. They abound here, as do monks of all orders. The decorations seemed tinselly enough, but there was the Catholic ritual, with its sublime suggestions and trivial forms, repeating itself under the equator in the extreme East, as it repeats itself at Paris or Madrid, and under Arctic or Antarctic circles. And here, as there, at these early morning services, were a few solitary women assisting; some of them commonplace-looking enough, but others, no doubt, with a load of troubles to deposit at the altar, or in the ear of the monk in the box, heavy enough to furnish the burden of many such romances as those which thrill the public sensibilities in our days. After all, when the horrors which have brought about the result are past and forgotten, there is something gained by that truculent Spanish system which forces the faith upon all who come within its reach. Fais-toi chretienner, où je t’arrache l’ame, as Charlemagne (not a Spaniard, by the way, so there my illustration halts) said to his heathen enemies. There is something, I say, gained by it when the origin is forgotten, because the bond of a common creed does do a little towards drawing these different races together. They are not separated from each other by that impassable barrier of mutual contempt, suspicion, and antipathy, which alienates us from the unhappy natives in those lands where we settle ourselves among inferior orders of men. An administrative net of a not very flexible nature encloses all, and keeps each member of the body politic pretty closely to the post allotted to him; but the belief in a common humanity, drawn perhaps rather from the traditions of the early, than from the practice of the modern church, runs like a silken thread through the iron tissue. One feels a little softened and sublimated when one passes from Hong-Kong, where the devil is worshipped in his naked deformity, to this place where he displays at least some of the feathers which he wore before he fell. So you must pardon me, if my letter reflects in some measure the phase through which my mind is passing.

I found next me at breakfast the Chief of the Secretariat, an intelligent man, speaking French. He confirmed a good many of the impressions which my own observations had led me to form respecting the state of affairs here. The army is composed of natives; officers and non-commissioned officers, Spanish. The artillery, or a portion of it, also Spanish. The native Indians pay a capitation tax of $1 a head; half-castes double; Chinese $50, $30, or $12. As usual, my poor Chinamen are hated and squeezed. They are not obliged to become Catholics, but the native Indian women can/will not marry them unless they are, and they are not allowed to make public profession of any other religion.... After breakfast came in an English merchant, who made the passage from Suez to Singapore with me in 1857. He says foreigners are very well treated here, but they have some difficulties about customs duties, which I have asked him to state in writing to me, that I may say a word about them if occasion offers. The greater part of the trade here is in English hands.

To pass from the higher thoughts which suggested themselves when I visited the churches this morning, I may tell you that I saw some of the devout Indian women when they left the churches on their return. They were generally very plain, to say the least of it. Round their waists and over their under-dress they pass a piece of silk, which is wrapped tight round the person. The result is as nearly as possible the opposite to the effect produced by a crinoline.

I have returned from a very hot drive to visit a sugar refinery and a cigar manufactory. I saw little to interest at the former, except the process of making chocolate by mixing cocoa, cinnamon, and sugar. At the latter, some 8,000 girls were employed, not very pretty, but cheerful-looking. A skilful worker can make 200 a day, so that these young ladies can poison mankind to the tune of 1,600,000 cigars a day.

Sunday, January 27th. Ten A.M. In my early morning’s walk I again visited the churches, which were in greater activity than yesterday. In the cathedral I came in for a sermon which began ’Illustrissimo Senor’ so I suppose the Archbishop was present, and probably had me in his eye. I could understand very little, so I did not stay it out. It was delivered without notes (having evidently been learnt by heart), in rather a monotonous way; with a sort of little action, all confined to a slight movement of the hands and flipping of the fingers.... The Archbishop is, I am told, very bigoted. He did not come to dinner yesterday (a grand full-dress dinner given in my honour), and some say it was because of my being a heretic. I take it I was in error yesterday in speaking of the Spanish system of compelling conformity of belief as necessarily beginning in harshness. I fancy the monks have won over the simple Indians here to a great extent by gentle methods. They protect them, and manage their affairs, and know all their secrets through the confessional, and amuse them with no end of feast-days, and gewgaws, and puerile ceremonies. The natives seem to have a great deal of our dear old French Canadian habitans about them, only in a more sublime stage of infantine simplicity.

January 28th. I drove this morning to a village (pueblo) about seven miles off, starting at 5.30. The weather nice and cool. The country very rich. The cottages of bamboo and leaves, and all raised on bamboo posts of about ten feet in height, seemed very comfortable. I never saw a more cheerful-looking rural population. All nicely and modestly dressed. The women completely emancipated from all eastern seclusion. I visited in this pueblo another great cigar manufactory; 8,000 girls employed. I must say that this colony appears to be a great success, as far as the natives are concerned, and I almost regret that I am not going to see something more of the interior. Crealock has been through the barracks, which he says are in admirable condition. The native soldiers appear to be very well treated. We dined yesterday with the Admiral. Just before we set out for this dinner, a procession was announced, and I went to the balcony to see it. The students of a college, some 350 in number, were escorting about two spangled and sparkling images of the Virgin, and a variety of flags. Each carried a lighted torch, and they lined both sides of the road, the interval between their rows being occupied by the images, three or four bands of music, the flags, &c. As all the bands played at once, and as loud as they possibly could, the noise was tremendous, and the cathedral bell helped, by tolling its deepest tone as the procession passed. These processions are the great religious stimulant here, and they form another point of resemblance with the French part of Canada.

After little more than three days’ stay among the Spaniards of Luzon, he embarked again on the 29th on board the ‘Ferooz,’ and passing by Sarawak and the north-west coast of Bornéo, crossed the Line to visit the Dutch settlement of Java.

February 6th. A fine morning, and we are going through the Gaspar Strait in about 2 deg. 30’ south, not very far from where Lord Amherst was wrecked in the ‘Alceste.’ We anchored again last night, but in a calm. Yesterday morning Neptune made his appearance, and those of us who had not passed the Line had to pay the penalty. I compounded for his claims on me, and the crew had a good lark in shaving with tar and ducking some other novices. We are now in mid-summer, having passed at a bound from mid-winter. There is little difference, however, in these latitudes, between one part of the year and another. The principal difference consists in the rainy and dry seasons, and as near the Line as this there is, I suppose, always more or less rain. Two P.M. I went on deck this morning at eight, after writing, to discover why we were stopping, and I found that a squall had closed in all around us, and hid the land. It lasted only about an hour, when we set off again, passing through a great many little islets all covered with trees, so different from the barren Pulo Sapata and Pulo Condor, which we pass on the route between Singapore and Hong-Kong! The weather is delicious, and I am confirmed in my doctrine, that if you are compelled to be in or in the vicinity of the Tropics, the nearer the Line the better. You have not the interminably long summer days which you have at more remote points, and constant showers veil the sun and cool the air. This makes Singapore comparatively so bearable, and I suppose Sarawak has some of the same advantages.

Java. February 8th. Three P.M. Here I am looking out from my window upon a piece of park-like scenery, a sheet of water, drooping trees, and deer feeding among them. The only drawback is that it is raining, and this is not an unqualified evil, because the rain cools the air. The place I am at is the residence of the Governor-General of Java (or of the Indies, I believe his title is), about forty miles from Batavia, the chief town, at which I landed yesterday, at 5 P.M., with much honour in the way of salutes, &c. We were conveyed in carriages-and-six, with an escort, to the Governor’s town palace, which I was told to consider placed at my disposal. It consists chiefly of a very spacious room on the ground-floor, paved in marble, and looking very brilliant, lit up with wax candles in chandeliers. Some of the high officials came to dinner, and we were waited on by black servants in state liveries and bare feet, who moved noiselessly over the marble floor. The original town of Batavia is unhealthy for Europeans, so they live in villas which extend from the town for some miles, on both sides of the main road into the interior. The villas looked very nice, and white women seemed to abound in them. It was hinted to me that the Governor-General would like to see me at his residence, so I set out for this place at about seven this morning, performing thirty-six miles in two hours and fifty minutes, in a comfortable carriage drawn by six ponies, changed every five miles. I need hardly say that we always went at full gallop. The country was not very interesting, being chiefly low and rice-bearing, nor did I see the cheerful firm-looking maidens who struck me so much at Manila. This island is exploite entirely for the Government and dominant race, and with no little success, for I am told that the surplus revenue last year was L6,000,000, L4,000,000 of which were remitted to Holland. I shall end by thinking that we are the worst colonisers in the Eastern world, as we neither make ourselves rich, nor the governed happy.

February 9th. I took a drive at six this morning, and then a walk through the botanic garden, which is attached to this house and has a great reputation. I am no judge, as you know, but everything seems in beautiful order, and it is of great extent. After a light repast I got a carriage to take me down to a spacious swimming-bath, paved with marble and shaded by magnificent trees, in which I felt rather tempted to spend the day. I should mention that, before dinner yesterday, when the rain slackened, I went into the garden, and was arrested as I wandered along the paths musingly, by a monument with an English inscription. It is to the wife of Sir Stamford Raffles, who died here in 1814, while the colony was in our hands; died here, that is, at Buitenzorg, for this inscription has taught me the name of the place, which I had not been able to catch before. I see little of my host. We dined at half-past six; nobody but his staff and daughter and my rather numerous following, who are not, I fear, all as well dressed as he approves of; a short séance after dinner, and then to our private apartments. Today we met in the same stiff way at twelve, for breakfast. I have not seen a book or a paper in the house, but that may be because I am not admitted to the parts of the mansion where they are to be found. An expedition has been organised for me, and I start tomorrow morning. It will occupy four days, but it would be absurd to come to such a place as this, and to leave it without seeing anything. The Governor-General has spent thirty-one years of his life here, but for a time (six years) he was colonial minister in Holland. His daughter’s husband was killed by a native running a’muck (this is a Javanese expression) some years ago. She seems a gentle person, and has a daughter eight years old. We all speak French, which is an improvement on my Manila experiences.

They started at six on the morning of the 10th, in three carriages-and-six, and slept the first night at a place called Chipana, where they ’were to have ascended’ a mountain 9,000 feet high, but were prevented by the ‘rain.’ The next day’s journey brought them to the high table-land of Bantong.

February 11th. Bantong. About 120 miles from Batavia, on a plain about 3,000 feet above the level of the sea. The weather comparatively cool, though this is the hot season. I have just (10 P.M.) returned from a Javanese soiree. The Regent (a sort of native lord- lieutenant) invited me to his house to see some dancing. This Regent is very rich, about L12,000 a year, which he receives from a tithe paid to him by all producers in his regency. The dancing was performed by four girls wearing strange helmet-shaped head-dresses, and garments of a close-fitting stiff character reaching to the ground. They swayed their bodies to and fro in a melancholy way to a very monotonous plaintive sort of music, but their chief art consisted in the wonderful success with which they twisted their arms and fingers. In a second dance they carried bows and arrows, and went through a kind of pantomimic fight. After this was over, as I had expressed a wish to see more of his house, I was taken across a court to another ground- floor room, and was startled by finding myself suddenly introduced to Madame la Régente, an odd little woman, with a wizened face, and mouth and teeth blackened by betel nut. I was rather put into a difficulty in finding conversation for her, for I did not know whether she would like being complimented on the ballet we had just seen. I then went to look at the musicians and their instruments, the latter consisting chiefly of coffee canes struck by a sort of gong-sticks. The sound at a distance was bell-like and not unpleasing. I was informed that the Regent had paid L500 for his set of instruments. After this I returned to my inn in my carriage. How I got to this place I shall tell later. I must now go to bed, as we start at 5 A.M. on an expedition to see an active crater.

February 12th. Six P.M. We started nearly as early as was proposed. Two hours of carriage work along a road made heavy by rain, and about two hours more of riding up a steep mountain side, covered with tall trees sinking under a load of creepers and orchideous plants, not so wild and bold as the mountain scenery of Jamaica, but with somewhat of the same character. We ascended about 4,300 feet from our starting-point, so that when we reached our goal we were 6,500 feet above the sea. Our goal was a covered shed overlooking a crater, not in a very active state, but puffing sulphurous smoke from numerous chinks and chasms. Beyond this first crater was a second very similar to it; and beyond both, far below, the plain of Bantong, where we now are, lay green and smiling. We could not see a great extent of it, for the heavy clouds were already mustering for the rain which at this season falls always in the afternoon. (It is now pouring, with thunder and lightning.) But the scene was very striking, and the clouds added to the mystery. We returned through a quinine plantation, which is an experiment, and promises to be a successful one, and then through a coffee plantation, different, and much prettier to look at than those of Ceylon and Jamaica, for here the bushes are allowed to grow to their full height (about twenty feet), and have a graceful pyramid- like shape; whereas there they are all pruned down to about five feet in height. There are also here some large trees left to give shade to the coffee bushes. I can conceive nothing more lovely than these plantations must be at the time of flowering. We got back to our hotel at 2 P.M., since when I have had breakfast, hath, and reading, and am now preparing for dinner.

Ten P.M. Another Javanese soiree. No ladies this time. To begin with: two kinds of marionettes; the first behind a kind of crape screen, strange figures cut very beautifully out of buffalo hide, and jumping about to a very noisy vocal and instrumental accompaniment. The second, something like Italian marionettes, worked by a man’s fingers, but without any attempt to conceal the operator. Both sets, I believe, represented historical subjects. When we had had enough of these, we went into another room, where were assembled a priest, and a whole lot of followers from a mosque. The amusement here consisted in seeing boys from the mosque stick into their cheeks, &c., daggers and pointed weapons, which the priest blessed, and which were therefore innocuous; a milder specimen of the supernatural I certainly never witnessed. All took place at the Regent’s palace, from which I have just returned. His son, a boy of about fourteen, was present to-night and last night. A rather nice-looking boy. He never came near his father without crouching on his heels or knees, and putting his hands up to his face in an attitude of submission, if spoken to by him.

February 13th. Ten P.M. Chipana. (The place we slept at on the night of the 10th.) On this, as on the former occasion, the population make a sort of festival of my visit, and turn out to perform dances, &c. The performances are not so refined as at the Regent’s, but they are more picturesque and lively. The ladies move about in the same dreamy way about lamps, or rather torches, but here they have partners to dance with them. The noise is tremendous, and has not yet ceased, although I have retired, on the understanding that the entertainment is to come to an end, as we again start to-morrow at 6 A.M. To-night, all the dancing has been in the open air. It was a wild, barbarous- looking scene; but I do not know that I should much care to see it again. We started this morning at six, and travelled, as we have always done, at full gallop on the level or down hill, and with the aid of four buffalos in front of our six ponies when we came to mount steep hills, of which there are many. The roads are excellent. They are made by forced labour, and, what seems rather hard, the natives with their carts, &c., are not allowed to use them. I found here a bath formed by a hot iron or sulphur spring, into which I plunged before dinner. These Javanese seem the most timorous of mankind. A11, men and women, crouch on their heels and knees when our carriage approaches; and they do this, I believe, to all white people, as well as to their own chiefs. But it is not only this crouching; they have, moreover (especially the women), a way of turning their heads aside, as if they were afraid to look at one. The natives of the eastern part of the island are said not to be so timid.

Starting from Chipana early on the following morning, they continued their rapid descent by Buitenzorg to Batavia; and on the 16th embarked again on board the ‘Ferooz,’ for Ceylon, where he expected to find an accumulation of four mails. ‘Two months of news!’ (he wrote). ’I always feel nervous as to what so long an interval may bring forth.’

Ferooz,’ at Sea. February 16th. One P.M. We are entering the Strait of Sunda, which separates Java and Sumatra. When through it we have a clear sea-way to Galle. Two P.M. We have just passed the high land which forms the north-western point of Java, and is called Cape St. Nicholas. It is beautifully rich-looking; the bright green of its grass and crops embroidered over by the darker green of the clumps of trees which are scattered upon it. Farther down to the south, on the same side, is the flat promontory known as Angen Point. On the other side we have the coast of Sumatra, wooded and broken, with mountains in the background, and green islets tossed out from it upon the ocean, in the foreground; and a sailing ship moving along it in the same direction with ourselves, her sails flapping idly in the calm.

Sunday, February 24th. We have just had service on deck, under a double awning. A little fanning breeze from the north-east seemed to say that we are at last getting back into the region of that monsoon which we left when we went to the south of the Line. I have been some days without writing, for there has been nothing to tell, and we have had a good deal of bad weather, rain, and rolling and pitching; but we must not complain, as it was more convenient to have it here in the open sea, than if we had encountered it in a narrow passage, such as we have passed through. We expect to reach Galle in three days, and I cannot but feel a little nervous as to the news I may find there. We are in God’s hands, and this sort of doubt makes us feel the more that we are so.

Altogether, I was much interested by Java. As I have said, it is ruled entirely for the interest of the governing race. No attempt is made to raise the natives. I believe that the missionaries are not allowed to visit the interior. I asked about schools, and ascertained that in the province of which the regency of Bantong forms a part, and which contains some 600,000 inhabitants, there were five; not, I suspect, much attended. It was clear from the tone of the officials that there was no wish to educate the natives. There is a kind of forced labour. They pay a tithe of the produce of their rice-fields; are obliged (in certain districts) to plant coffee, and to sell the produce at a rate fixed by the Government; in others, to work on sugar estates, and, in all, to make roads. Nevertheless, I am not satisfied that they are unhappy, or that the system can be called a failure. In those districts which I visited there was no appearance of their being overworked; and I was assured that, on the sugar estates, the proprietors have no power of punishing those who do not work; that it rests with the officials exclusively to do so. The tone of the officials on the subject is, that no punishment is necessary, because, although they are so lazy that if they had the choice they would never do anything, they do not make any difficulty about working when they are told to do so. Economically it is a success. The fertility of the island is very great, so that the labour of the natives leaves a large surplus after their own subsistence is provided for. There are twenty provinces, in each of which the chief officer is the president a Dutchman; but the native chief (Regent) has the more direct relations with the people, arranges about their labour, &c. The Dutch officials look after him, and see that he does not abuse his power.

Pressing eagerly forward, he reached Ceylon, the scene of so many anxieties and disasters, on the last day of February.

Ceylon, March 2nd. I found here your letters to January 10th, and
am relieved... Where is our meeting to be?... If I can, I shall take
the route through Trieste and Paris.

On the 20th he writes from the neighbourhood of Mount Sinai:

March 20th. Noon. We are now in the Gulf of Suez. On the right side a row of arid mountains with serrated crests, and a margin of flat dry sand at the base, and behind them what is reputed to be Mount Sinai. Only a glimpse of the latter can, however, be caught at one point, where there is a depression in the nearer range. On the left there are mountains of a similar character, overtopped by one 10,000 feet high. The sea is deeply blue and the sun scorching, but the air cool almost cold. We have had a good deal of wind and sea against us for the last three days; but we passed the Straits of Jubal early this morning, and hope to be at Suez during the night.

On the 24th he was once more enjoying the fresh and invigorating breezes of Europe:

Sunday, March 24th. On board H.M.S. ’Terrible.’ Here is a change of scene! The last words of this journal were written in the Gulf of Suez, on board the ‘Ferooz.’ I now write from the Mediterranean, off the island of Candia, whose snow-capped mountains are looking down upon us; very different from the parched ranges of hills wrapped in perpetual heat haze, which I described to you four days ago.

March 26th. Seven A.M. I have been about two hours on deck. A beautiful morning, and smooth sea. On our right the coast of Albania, hilly and wooded. On our left the land is low, and covered apparently with olive trees. Before us the southern end of Corfu, which we are approaching. Farther on, the channel along which we are gliding seems to be closed in as a lake, the Corfu mountains and those of Greece overlapping each other. The snow-covered crests of some of the latter gleam in the sunshine. It is a lovely scene. Yesterday we passed Cape Matapan, Zante, &c., all on our right; but there was a good deal of wind and sea, and an unusual amount of motion for the ‘Terrible.’ Navarino, too, we passed; but I did not know it at the time. We propose to call in at Corfu, take in coal, and see what can be seen during the day. But I hope to be off for Trieste to-morrow morning.

March 27th. We found at Corfu three line-of-battle ships and Admiral Dacres, who came on board to see me. I landed at 11 A.M., and went to the Government House, where I found Sir H. Storks. He took me a drive of about thirteen miles, to the top of a pass in the mountains called Pantaleone, from which there is a very extensive view. It is a beautiful island. The day bright and sunny. Nothing can be more picturesque than the town. The people, too, seem to me very handsome. I saw this morning the captain of a sloop-of-war who has been visiting various ports in the Adriatic. He was received at Ancona with a furore of enthusiasm, and exceedingly well treated at Venice, Trieste, &c., by the Austrians, who are burning to revenge themselves on the French, and anxious to ally themselves with us for that purpose.... We have been steaming through a narrow channel, with the snow-covered mountains of Albania on our right; but we are now emerging into the open Adriatic.

By Trieste and Vienna he travelled rapidly to Paris, where he was met by Lady Elgin; and on the 11th of April 1861, within a few days of the anniversary of his departure, he found himself once more on British soil.

The reception which awaited him at home was even warmer than that which he had met with two years before. What gratified him, perhaps, more than any of the many similar expressions of good-will was the cordial welcome with which he was greeted by his old friends and neighbours at Dunfermline: friends from whom he had been, as he told them, so long an unwilling absentee. His answer to their address was the simple and natural expression of this feeling.

It is pleasant (he said) perhaps it is one of the sweetest flowers we cull on the path of this rugged life to find ourselves among old friends after a long absence, and to find their hearts beat as true and warm as ever. I am deeply gratified by the flattering terms in which my public services have been referred to in this address, but I am still more gratified by the welcome which you have tendered to me to-day.... Gentlemen, I have been for many years very much, perhaps too much of a wanderer, and it has been my fortune to receive from our countrymen established in different parts of the world tokens of their regard and consideration. The very last address of felicitation I received before I landed at Dover the other day was from a body of my countrymen established in the Philippines a group of Spanish islands in the far East, near the equator. But allow me to say that among all these tokens, those most grateful and agreeable to me are those which I receive from friends and neighbours at home. And, perhaps, I appreciate these tokens the more highly, because I am conscious that the very fact of my having been so much of a wanderer, has prevented me from acquiring some of those titles to their personal regard which I might have hoped to establish if I had been constantly resident among them.

About the same time he was received with marked distinction at the annual banquet of the Royal Academy in London; and the words which he spoke on that occasion have more than a mere passing interest, as illustrating the speaker’s frank and straightforward manner of dealing with a question of great delicacy, and also as containing some striking and suggestive remarks on certain mental and moral peculiarities of the Chinese people.

I am especially gratified (he said) by the great and very unexpected honour which you have done to me in drinking my health, because I trust that I may infer from it that in your judgment, Sir, and in that of this company, I am not so incorrigibly barbarous as to be incapable of feeling the humanising influences which fall upon us from the noble works of art by which we are surrounded. And, as I have ventured to approach so nearly to the margin of a burning question, I hope that I may be allowed to take one step more in the same direction, and to assure you that no one regretted more sincerely than I did the destruction of that collection of summer-houses and kiosks, already, and previously to any act of mine, rifled of their contents, which was dignified by the title of Summer Palace of the Chinese Emperor. But when I had satisfied myself that in no other way, except, indeed, by inflicting on this country and on China the calamity of another year of war, could I mark the sense which I entertained, which the British army entertained and on this point I may appeal to my gallant friend who is present here this evening, and who conducted that army triumphantly to Pekin with so much honour to himself and to those under his command and which, moreover, I make bold in the presence of this company to say, the people of this country entertained of an atrocious crime, which, if it had passed unpunished, would have placed in jeopardy the life of every European in China, I felt that the time had come when I must choose between the indulgence of a not unnatural sensibility and the performance of a painful duty. The alternative is not a pleasant one; but I trust that there is no man serving the Crown in a responsible position who would hesitate when it is presented to him as to the decision at which he should arrive. And now, Sir, to pass to another topic, I have been repeatedly asked whether, in my opinion, the interests of art in this country are likely to be in any degree promoted by the opening up of China. I must say, in reply, that I do not think that in matters of art we have much to learn from that country, but I am not quite prepared to admit that even in this department we can gain nothing from them. The distinguishing characteristic of the Chinese mind is this that at all points of the circle described by man’s intelligence, it seems occasionally to have caught glimpses of a heaven far beyond the range of its ordinary ken and vision. It caught a glimpse of the path which leads to military supremacy when it invented gunpowder, some centuries before the discovery was made by any other nation. It caught a glimpse of the path which leads to maritime supremacy when it made, at a period equally remote, the discovery of the mariner’s compass. It caught a glimpse of the path which leads to literary supremacy when, in the tenth century, it invented the printing press; and, as my illustrious friend on my right (Sir E. Landseer) has reminded me, it has caught from time to time glimpses of the beautiful in colour and design. But in the hands of the Chinese themselves the invention of gunpowder has exploded in crackers and harmless fireworks. The mariner’s compass has produced nothing better than the coasting junk. The art of printing has stagnated in stereotyped editions of Confucius, and the most cynical representations of the grotesque have been the principal products of Chinese conceptions of the sublime and beautiful. Nevertheless, I am disposed to believe that under this mass of abortions and rubbish there lie hidden some sparks of a diviner fire, which the genius of my countrymen may gather and nurse into a flame.

A few days afterwards, at a dinner given at the Mansion House in his honour, he was again greeted with more than common enthusiasm. In responding, after giving an account of the objects that had been sought and the results that had been achieved in the East, he concluded his speech by impressing on the merchants of England, in words which may be regarded as his final and farewell utterance on the subject, that with them must now chiefly lie the responsibility of aiding or retarding the development of China, and thus of determining the place she shall hold in the commonwealth of nations.

My Lord Mayor (be said), I should be very much to blame if, having an opportunity of addressing an assembly in this place, I omitted to call attention to the fact that the occasional misconduct of our own countrymen and other foreigners in China is one of the greatest, perhaps the very greatest, difficulties with which the Queen’s representatives there have to deal. We send out to that country honourable merchants and devout missionaries, who scatter benefits in every part of the land they visit, elevating and raising the standard of civilisation wherever they go. But sometimes, unfortunately, there slip out from among us dishonest traders and ruffians who disgrace our name and set the feelings of the people against us. The public opinion of England can do much to encourage the one class of persons and discourage the other. I trust that the moral influence of this great city will always be exerted in that direction. In addressing the merchants of Shanghai some three years ago, at the time when I announced to them that it was my intention to seek a treaty in Pekin itself if I could not get it before I arrived there, I made this observation that when force and diplomacy should have effected in China all that they could legitimately accomplish, the work which we had to do in that empire would still be only in its commencement. I repeat that statement now. My gallant friend who spoke just now has returned his sword to the scabbard. The diplomatist, as far as treaty- making is concerned, has placed his pen on the shelf. But the great task of construction the task of bringing China, with its extensive territory, its fertile soil, and its industrious population, as an active and useful member, into the community of nations, and making it a fellow-labourer with ourselves in diffusing over the world happiness and well-being is one that yet remains to be accomplished. No persons are more entitled or more fitted to take a part in that work than the merchants of this great city. I implore them, then, to devote themselves earnestly to its fulfilment, and from the bottom of my heart I pray that their endeavours towards that end may be crowned with success.