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The English In China
by [?]

Meantime, returning to China, it is important to draw attention upon this point. A new demand for any product of land may happen to be not very large, and thus may seem not much to affect the markets, or the interests of those who produce it. But, since the rent doctrine has been developed, it has become clear that a new demand may affect the producers in two separate modes: first, in the ordinary known mode; secondly, by happening to call into activity a lower quality of soil. A very moderate demand, nay, a very small one, added to that previously existing, if it happens not to fall within the powers of those numbers already in culture (as, suppose, 1, 2, 3, 4), must necessarily call out No. 5; and so on.

Now, our case, as regards Chinese land in the tea districts, is far beyond this. Not only has it been large enough to benefit the landholder enormously, by calling out lower qualities of land, which process again has stimulated the counteracting agencies in the more careful and scientific culture of the plant; but also it has been in a positive sense enormous. It might have been large relatively to the power of calling out lower qualities of soil, and yet in itself have been small; but our demand, running up at present to 100,000,000 pounds weight annually, is in all senses enormous. The poorer class of Chinese tea-drinkers use the leaves three times over–i. e., as the basis of three separate tea-makings. Consequently, even upon that single deduction, 60,000,000 of Chinese tea-drinkers count only as 20,000,000 of ours. But I conclude, by repeating that the greatest of the impressions made by ourselves in the China tea districts, has been derived from this–that, whilst the native demand has probably been stationary, ours, moving by continual starts forward, must have stimulated the tea interest by continual descents upon inferior soils.

There is no doubt that the Emperor and all his arrogant courtiers have decupled their incomes from the British stimulation applied to inferior soils, that but for us never would have been called into culture. Not a man amongst them is aware of the advantages which he owes to England. But he soon would be aware of them, if for five years this exotic demand were withdrawn, and the tea-districts resigned to native patronage. Upon reviewing what I have said, not the ignorant and unteachable Chinese only, but some even amongst our own well-informed and reflecting people, will see that they have prodigiously underrated the commercial value of England to China; since, when an Englishman calls for a hundred tons of tea, he does not (as is usually supposed) benefit the Chinese merchant only by giving him the ordinary profit on a ton, repeated for a hundred times, but also infallibly either calls into profitable activity lands lying altogether fallow, or else, under the action of the rent laws, gives a new and secondary value to land already under culture.

Other and greater topics connected with this coming Chinese campaign clamorously call for notice: especially these three:–

First, the pretended literature and meagre civilisation of China–what they are, and with what real effects such masquerading phantoms operate upon the generation with which accidents of commerce have brought us connected.

Secondly, what is the true mode of facing that warfare of kidnapping, garotting, and poisoning, avowed as legitimate subjects of patronage in the practice and in the edicts of the Tartar Government? Two things may be said with painful certainty upon this subject: first, the British Government has signally neglected its duties in this field through a period of about ninety years, and apparently is not aware of any responsibility attaching in such a case to those who wield the functions of supreme power. Hyder Ali, the tiger, and his more ferocious son Tippoo, practised, in the face of all India, the atrocities of Virgil’s Mezentius upon their British captives. These men filled the stage of martial history, through nearly forty years of the eighteenth century, with the tortures of the most gallant soldiers on earth, and were never questioned or threatened upon the subject. In this nineteenth century, again, we have seen a Spanish queen and her uncle sharing between them the infamy of putting to death (unjudged and unaccused) British soldiers on the idlest of pretences. Was it then in the power of the British Government to have made a vigorous and effectual intercession? It was; and in various ways they have the same power over the Chinese sovereign (still more over his agents) at present. The other thing which occurs to say is this: that, if we do not interfere, some morning we shall probably all be convulsed with unavailing wrath at a repetition of Mr Stead’s tragic end, on a larger scale, and exemplified in persons of more distinguished position.

Finally, it would have remained to notice the vast approaching revolution for the total East that will be quickened by this war, and will be ratified by the broad access to the Orient, soon to be laid open on one plan or other. Then will Christendom first begin to act commensurately on the East: Asia will begin to rise from her ancient prostration, and, without exaggeration, the beginnings of a new earth and new heavens will dawn.