Captain Elliot’s Circular (Regarding the Preliminary Conclusion of the Convention of Chuenpi)

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Captain Elliot’s Circular
(re the preliminary conclusion of the Convention of Cheunpi)
 (1841) 
by Charles Elliot

Date: 20 January 1841 For the Cantonese translation (粵語翻譯) of this work at the multilingual Wikisource, please see 義律通函.

CIRCULAR

To Her Britannic Majesty’s subjects

Macao, 20th January, 1841.

Her Majesty’s Plenipotentiary has now to announce the conclusion of preliminary arrangements between the imperial commissioner and himself, involving the following conditions:

1. The cession of the island and harbour of Hongkong to the British crown. All just charges and duties to the empire [1] upon the commerce carried on there to be paid as if the trade were conducted at Whampoa [2].
2. An indemnity to the British government of six millions of dollars, one million payable at once, and the remainder in equal annual instalments, ending in 1846.
3. Direct official intercourse between the countries upon an equal footing.
4. The trade of the port of Canton to be opened within ten days after the Chinese new year, and to be carried on at Whampoa [2] till further arrangements are practicable at the new settlement [3].

Details remain matter of negotiation.

The Plenipotentiary seizes the earliest occasion to declare that Her Majesty’s government has sought for no privilege in China exclusively for the advantage of British ships and merchants, and he is only performing his duty in offering the protection of the British flag to the subjects, citizens, and ships of foreign powers that may resort to Her Majesty’s possession.

Pending Her Majesty’s further pleasure, there will be no port or other changes to the British government.

The Plenipotentiary now permits himself to make a few general observations:-

The oblivion of past and redressed injuries will follow naturally from the right feeling of the Queen’s subjects. Indeed, it should be remembered that no extent of modification resulting only from political intervention can be efficacious in the steady improvement of our condition, unless it be systematically seconded by conciliatory treatment of the people [4] and becoming deference for the institutions and government of the country [5], upon the threshold of which we are about to be established.

The Plenipotentiary can only presume to advert very briefly to the zeal and wisdom of the Commander of the expedition to China; and to that rare union of ardour, patience, and forbearance, which has distinguished the officers and forces of all arms at all points of occupation and operation.

He is well assured the British community will sympathize cordially with him in their sentiments of lasting respect for his Excellency and the whole force, which he is ashamed to express in such inadequate language.

He cannot conclude without declaring that next to these causes, the peaceful adjustment of difficulties must be ascribed to the scrupulous good faith of the very eminent person with whom negotiations are still pending.

(Signed) CHARLES ELLIOT

Her Majesty’s Plenipotentiary, China

Notes[edit]

  1. The "empire" means the Great Qing.
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Whampoa in Guangdong, not the one in Kowloon.
  3. The "new settlement" means a new colony, thus, Hong Kong.
  4. The "people" means British expatriates in China.
  5. The "country" means Britain.

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