Execution Of The Pirates

Execution Of The Pirates.

As an additional proof, the captain showed us a photograph of the sequel to that act of piracy. For, as a matter of course, the British Government demanded satisfaction for this outrage, and in compliance nineteen criminals were beheaded. Whether they were the actual pirates, however, has been doubted. China always has scores of men awaiting execution - a dozen here, a dozen there. What matters it if those who merit death are said to have committed one crime or another? England had no way of identifying them. Accordingly she shut her eyes, accepted what the Chinese said of them, and took it for granted that the decapitated men were the real culprits. At all events, as an eye-witness told us, the deed itself was quickly done. In each case there was only one swing of the executioner's arm, and one flash of the two-edged sword; then, like a row of flowers clipped from their stems, the heads of all the kneeling criminals were lying in the sand, with staring eyes turned upward toward the sky.

With Staring Eyes Turned Upward

With Staring Eyes Turned Upward.

On leaving this repulsive picture in the captain's cabin, we found that we were approaching the once important settlement of Whampoa. Its glory is gone now, but formerly it played a prominent part in Eastern politics and commerce; for previous to the Opium War of 1841 and the establishment of the Treaty Ports, this was as far as foreign ships were permitted to come, and Whampoa was then a kind of counter across which Cantonese and Europeans traded. We now began to observe along the shore strange-looking boats protected by a roof and filled with fruits and vegetables for the Canton market. Moreover, on both sides of the river for many miles we looked on countless little patches of rice, bananas, oranges, and sugar-cane. At one point our attention was called to an island on which are some old fortifications used by China fifty years ago in her attempt to exclude opium from her territory. I suppose that no intelligent student of the subject doubts that the real cause of the war of 1841 was the attempt of England to force upon the Chinese a drug which no one dares to sell in London, even now. unless it bears the label "poison." In 1840, the Commissioner of Canton thus addressed the Queen of England:

An Old Chinese Fort, Canton River

An Old Chinese Fort, Canton River.

Opium   Smoking

Opium - Smoking.

Singing Girls

Singing Girls.

"How can your country seek to acquire wealth by selling us an article so injurious to mankind? I have heard that you have a generous heart; you must be willing, therefore, to obey the motto of Confucius, and refuse to do to others what you would not have others do to you."

In an address to foreign traders, issued in 1840, the Chinese also said: "Reflect that if you did not bring opium here, where could our people obtain it? Shall, then, our people die, and your lives not be required? You are destroying human life for the sake of gain. You should surrender your opium out of regard for the natural feelings of mankind. If not, it is right for us to drive every ship of your nation from our shores."

A Chinese Bridge

A Chinese Bridge.

Finding that these appeals were of no avail, the Chinese finally compelled the British merchants in Canton to give up all the opium in their possession. It amounted to twenty- one thousand chests, or about three million pounds. This mass of poison the Chinese threw into the river, chest after chest, much as Americans treated English tea in Boston harbor. As it dissolved, it is said that a large number of fish died. England retaliated by broadsides from her men- of-war, and in 1842, after an unequal struggle, China was forced to pay her victorious enemy twenty-one million dollars - six millions for the opium destroyed, and fifteen millions as a war indemnity, besides giving to England as her property forever, the island of Hong-Kong, and opening five new ports to foreign trade.