Europe in China/Chapter 15
The Administration of Sir Samuel George Bonham.
March 20, 1848, to April 12, 1854.
or some months before the departure of Sir J. Davis, the European community of Hongkong looked forward to the arrival of a new Governor in the hope that he would abandon the trade restraining system of monopolies, and revive the waning fortunes of the Colony by carrying into effect the recommendations of the Parliamentary Committee of 1847. At the same time the Home Authorities, casting about for a successor to Sir J. Davis, found it difficult to determine what sort of man would be suitable for such a trying office, the more so as public opinion in England had it that an angel for a Governor would fail to give satisfaction in Hongkong. The choice of Her Majesty's Government fell eventually on Sir Samuel George Bonham, C.B. He had been brought up in the service of the East India Company which, owing to the variety of duties—financial, judicial and executive—generally thrown upon its higher officers, was considered an excellent training school for a difficult governorship. Sir George Bonham had served under the Colonial Office for nearly ten years (1833 to 1842) as Governor of Prince of Wales Island (now included in Queensland), Singapore and Malacca and had given great satisfaction. Lord Palmerston subsequently stated that Sir George's 'practical common sense' was the chief cause of his appointment to the governorship of Hongkong.
On landing at Hongkong (March 20, 1848), Sir G. Bonham was received by the leaders of the community with a hearty cheer. Next day he took with due solemnity the customary oaths on assuming his double office of Chief-Superintendent of Trade and H. M. Plenipotentiary in China, and as Governor and Commander-in-chief of the Colony of Hongkong and its Dependencies and Vice-Admiral of the same. His commissions and letters patent were published at the same time (March 21, 1848). Mr. (subsequently Sir) Thomas F. Wade, who had been for some time Student-Interpreter under Dr. Gützlaff, in the Secretariate of the Superintendency of Trade, and had acted latterly also as Assistant-Interpreter in the Supreme Court, was appointed Private Secretary to the Governor (April 8, 1848), and acted thenceforth as the Governor's adviser in all Chinese matters.
Like his predecessors, Sir G. Bonham had to leave Hongkong occasionally, on tours of inspection, to visit the Consular Stations in China, and on several occasions his diplomatic duties as H. M. Plenipotentiary took him likewise away for brief intervals to Macao, Canton or Shanghai. In March, 1852, he left on twelve mouths' leave to recruit health by a visit to England (on which occasion the community presented him with a laudatory farewell address) but was back again at his post in February, 1853. On all these occasions Sir George had either Major-General Staveley, C.B. (till February 25, 1851) or Major-General Jervois, K.G. (from February, 1851, to April, 1854) to act as Lieutenant-Governors in his place, and both of them gave general satisfaction by maintaining Sir George's policy during his absence. Major-General Jervois particularly endeared himself to the hearts of all residents by his invariable urbanity and cordial hospitality which effectively promoted good feeling in Hongkong's limited society, as much as by the even tenor of the way in which he conducted the affairs of the Colony. When he left Hongkong, the community presented him (April 7, 1854) with an address testifying to the great respect and esteem in which he was held. During Sir G. Bonham's absence in 1852, Dr. Bowring, then H.M. Consul in Canton, came down (April 14, 1852) as Sir George's locum tenens in the Superintendency of Trade and resided at Government House (until February 16, 1853), confining himself, however, strictly to his diplomatic and consular duties, while Major-General Jervois administered the government of the Colony as Lieutenant-Governor.
Throughout the six years of his tenure of office, Sir G. Bonham maintained friendly relations with the successive Governors of Macao, J. M. F. d'Amiral (until August 22, 1849), P. A. da Cunha (since May 27, 1850), S. Cardazo (since January 21, 1851), and T. F. Guimaraes (since November 18, 1851). Nor were these amicable relations interrupted even by that plucky but hasty action of the Senior British Naval Officer, Captain H. Keppel, who (June 7, 1849) landed at Macao, with Captain Troubridge and 115 men of H.M.S. Maeander, and rescued from the Portuguese gaol-guard a British prisoner by an act of force which unfortunately involved the death of one Portuguese soldier find the wounding of two others. The prisoner was Mr. J. Summers, preceptor of St. Paul's College, who had been lodged, with unreasonable harshness, in the common jail at Macao for not taking off his hat at the passing of the Corpus Christi procession. When Captain Keppel applied for the prisoner's immediate rendition, Governor Amiral curtly refused it because the gallant Captain declined to ask for it as a personal favour. Captain Keppel fancied that his forcible interference would be held justifiable on the ground of the above-mentioned Hongkong Ordinance, which included Macao in the dominions of the Emperor of China. As Governor Bonham, however, took a different view of the case, and induced the British Admiralty to grant substantial compensation for the injuries inflicted, the relations between the Governors of the two Colonies continued unimpaired. Great troubles came over that unfortunate settlement at Macao in connection with the anti-Chinese policy and consequent murder of Governor Amiral (August 22, 1849) by hired Chinese assassins, and by the equally sudden death through cholera (not poison) of his successor, Commodore da Cunha (July 6, 1850). The latter had just arrived from Europe with two frigates, demanding of the Chinese Government, as compensation for the assassination of Governor Amiral, a recognition of the perfect independence of Macao. As the Chinese Authorities stubbornly resisted these claims, and not only incited the Chinese residents of Macao to acts of treason, but commenced measures of hostility, many European and Chinese merchants, and even Portuguese families, removed from Macao and settled on the safer shores of Hongkong.
Sir G. Bonham found the Chinese Government as oblivious of Treaty obligations and as uncompromisingly hostile to the essential aims of British commercial policy as ever. The retrograde policy of the Emperor Taokwang and his successor (since February 25, 1849) Hien-fung had been demonstrated by the degradation of every Mandarin that had had anything to do with the Pottinger Treaties. No one was now in favour at Peking who did not distinguish himself by marked anti-foreign proclivities. The Imperial Commissioner Seu Kwang-tsin, the successor of Kiying at Canton, persistently sought to undermine the position granted by the Nanking Treaty by bringing foreign trade under the old restrictions of the time of the East India Company. For this purpose he set to work quietly to force one after the other of the main staples of foreign trade into the hands of responsible Chinese monopolists. A United States Commissioner, J. W. Davis, plied Sen (November 6, 1848) with the suavest blandishments of cute diplomacy but met only with discourtesy and blunt refusals to listen to any reasoning whatever. When Governor Bonham succeeded in wringing from Sen a reluctant consent to an interview (February 17, 1849) on board H.M.S. Hastings near the Bogue, Sen behaved with studied sulkiness, evaded all serious discussion of the burning question of the promised opening of Canton city, and declined even the customary refreshments. He knew that Sir George was not in a position to enforce the fulfilment of the promise which Sir J. Davis had forcibly extorted from Kiying to grant foreign merchants, from after April 6, 1849, the right of entering Canton city. When Sir G. Bonham in repeated dispatches insisted upon the immediate opening of Canton city, Sen fell back upon Kiying's tactics of postponing action on the ground that at the present time it would provoke popular disturbances. Fortified by an Imperial Edict he finally declared (March 31, 1840) the opening of Canton city impossible because 'the Chinese Government cannot thwart the inclinations of its people.' Sir George's practical common sense forbade, under present circumstances, his taking the bull by the horns. In view of the state of public feeling in England, and in the interest of the general commerce with China, he deemed it prudent to abstain from using the only argument that would have made an impression on the Chinese mind, that of an armed demonstration. Nor did he shrink from making a public confession of his helplessness by notifying the British merchants at Canton (April 2, 1840) that 'the Chinese Government has declined to carry into effect the stipulation entered into by Kiying on April 6, 1847.' Sir George took, however, prompt measures to afford to the British community at Canton all possible protection in the event of the outbreak of those disturbances which the literati of Canton wantonly threatened but wisely refrained from in the presence of a British gunboat. That Sir G. Bonham, in resorting to the waiting game he played in this case, acted upon his own convictions and not merely under pressure of his instructions, is evident from the fact that about this same time (April 20, 1849) Lord Palmerston, in replying to a Memorial of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce (of October 12, 1848) concerning the unsatisfactory position of trade with China, quoted Sir G. Bonham as having stated that 'it is necessary to allow time to work an improvement in China.'
Nevertheless Sir George did not rest idly on his diplomatic oars. In March, 1850, he protested so vigorously against an attempt made by the Hoppo of Canton to prevent Hongkong river-steamers carrying Chinese cargo between Hongkong and Canton, that the Canton Authorities yielded the point. But as he despaired of obtaining any radical concessions in the matter of Treaty rights from any of the provincial magnates, Sir George endeavoured to gain for his representations the Imperial ear and proceeded for that purpose in H.M.S. Reynard (June, 1850) to the Peiho with the intention to proceed to Tientsin and Peking. Circumstances, however, prevented his reaching Tientsin and compelled him to rest satisfied with the forwarding of a dispatch to the Emperor's advisers by the hands of Mr. Medhurst. Although no tangible result was obtained, H.M. Government marked their sense of Sir G. Botham's discreet diplomacy by promoting him (November 22, 1850) from the third to the second rank of the Order of the Bath (K.C.B.) and bestowed on him at the same time a baronetcy.
Though highly thought of, Sir G. Bonham was not always victorious with his representations to the Foreign Office. Being, like most common-sense Europeans in China, of opinion that the close attention indispensable for a successful study of the Chinese language warps the mind and imbues it with a defective perception of the common things of real life, he systematically promoted men, having no knowledge of Chinese, over the heads of interpreters to the more responsible posts of Vice-Consul or Consul. But when he did this in the case of Mr. (subsequently Sir) Harry Parkes in Canton (autumn, 1853), there ensued what was thenceforth called 'the Battle of the Interpreters.' In this battle Sir George was worsted. Sir Harry Parkes' case was indeed an exceptional one. He had just gained special kudos as an uncommonly shrewd man by his prudent dealing with the fracas which occurred at Canton (March, 1853) between the European residents and the French Minister M. de Bourbillon over the erection of a French flagstaff in the garden of the factories. On appealing therefore against Sir G. Bonham's decision to Lord Clarendon, Sir Harry Parkes gained a complete victory by an immediate reversal of Sir George's system of withholding promotion from Consular interpreters.
In the sphere of British diplomacy in China, there was at this time specially good reason for the waiting policy which Sir G. Bonham initiated and which even Dr. Bowring, during his brief term as Acting Plenipotentiary in 1852, continued. The fact was, a serious rebellion, preceded by sporadic disturbances in several districts of the Canton province, broke out in 1850 in the adjoining province of Kwangsi, under the leadership of a religious fanatic, Hung Siu-tsuen, who had come under Christian influences in Canton. This rebellion, which was for the first time mentioned in the newspapers of Hongkong on August 24, 1850, had originally the powerful support of the secret Triad societies. A split, however, took place, and while the adherents of Hung Siu-tsuen commenced, in 1852, their devastating march through the central provinces of China and established, in 1853, the short-lived Taiping Dynasty at Nanking, the Triad societies' bands of insurgents pillaged independently town after town in the maritime provinces of southern China. As these marauders gained power, and gradually drew nearer to Canton city, the Colony of Hongkong began to reap the harvest which invariably falls to its lot whenever the adjoining districts of the Canton province are in a disturbed state. A flood tide of emigration set in towards Hongkong (and Macao) and thence to the Straits Settlements, to California and the West Indies. For San Francisco alone as many as 30,000 Chinese embarked in Hongkong in the year 1852, paying in Hongkong, in passage money alone, a sum of $1,500,000. Various branches of Chinese industry were established in Hongkong. The population increased rapidly, and Chinese capital, seeking a safe refuge from the clutches of the marauders, commenced to flow into the Colony for investment.
Although the British Government determined at first to observe strict neutrality, the question soon arose which of the two contending Dynasties, the Taiping rebels (favoured by the Missionary party) or the Manchu rulers (supported by the mercantile community) would be more likely to bring about that moral regeneration of the nation without which China could never fully enter into the comity of nations. This important question became more pressing when Taiping armies approached or took possession of Treaty ports (1852 and 1853) threatening a cessation of trade. Sir G. Bonham therefore took the bold step of proceeding (April, 1853) to the headquarters of the Taiping rebels enthroned at Nanking. His object was to explain to the rebel leaders, as he had done to the Imperialists, the principles of British neutrality, to demand of them a strict observance of the Nanking Treaty of 1842, and to inquire what elements of stability there might be in the rebel government then established at Nanking. The result was complete disillusion on both sides. The rebels understood thenceforth what they had to expect from the British Government. Sir G. Bonham, on the other hand, was now able to satisfy the Foreign Office that the Taiping Dynasty was a mere bubble, that their policy was as anti-foreign as that of the Manchus, and that even less was to be expected from the former than from the latter for an eventual repression of that cancer of corruption which is gnawing at the vitals of China's political organism. Sir George's action, in visiting the rebel leaders, was afterwards severely and adversely criticized, but the mercantile community of Hongkong were unanimous in their applause of his proceedings. In the farewell address presented to Sir George on 7th April, 1854, the leading merchants of Hongkong specially praised him for having 'acted with prompitude in restoring confidence and relieving the public mind at Shanghai, at a moment of great alarm and excitement, by his bold, well-judged and successful movement up the Yang-tsze to Nanking in April, 1853.'
Now this same patient but practical and determined common sense, which marked Sir G. Bonham's policy as H.M. Plenipotentiary in China, characterized also his administration of Hongkong's local affairs. It appears from the last dispatch which he penned in Hongkong, that he from the first considered himself bound by the opinions expressed by the Committee of the House of Commons in the session of 1847, but that he was by no means satisfied with the conclusions which the Committee arrived at. However, the constitutional questions of popular representation in Legislative Council and municipal organisation were among the first subjects which occupied Governor Bonham's serious attention.
In January, 1849, the leading merchants signed a Petition to the House of Commons soliciting attention to the fact that the Colonial Office had, with the exception of the land tenure which it seemed inclined to offer in perpetuity, not attended as yet to the recommendations of the Report of the Parliamentary Committee of 1847, and stating that the expenditure of the Colony should not in any great degree be thrown on local commerce; that a system of municipal government of ordinary and local affairs ought to be established; and that some short code of law ought to be drawn up. The petitioners particularly complained that the inhabitants had no share in the legislature, neither by elective representatives nor by nominees selected by the Governor, and that the forms and fees of the Supreme Court were unduly heavy. There is no record shewing that this Petition was ever presented to Parliament. Sir George, however, forwarded (January 30, 1849) a copy of the Petition for the information of the Colonial Office. Nine months later, he selected fifteen of the unofficial Justices of the Peace and summoned them to a conference (November 3, 1849). He informed them that Earl Grey had sanctioned his proposal for the admission of two members of the civil community into the Legislative Council, that the nomination rested with him, but that he thought it better for the Justices themselves to elect two of their number. A meeting of the Justices of the Peace was accordingly held at the Club on 6th December, 1849, and Messrs. David Jardine and J. F. Edger were nominated as the first non-official Members of the Legislative Council. The fact that their election had to be approved by the Colonial Office and that they could not be sworn in until the Queen's warrants arrived (June 14, 1850), did not detract from the general rejoicing over this first step gained in the direction of representative government.
At that same conference (November 3, 1849) Sir G. Bonham had also stated, that, whilst agreeing with the principle of giving taxpayers some sort of municipal government, he doubted the practicability of the scheme in the case of Hongkong. He quoted the words of Sir James Mackintosh (regarding the Bombay municipality) that 'men of standing, engaged in their own absorbing pursuits would possess neither time nor inclination to devote to the interests of the public' However, he requested the fifteen Justices of his selection to consult on the organisation' of a 'Municipal Committee of Police Commissioners.' The Justices thereupon passed, at their meeting of 6th December, 1849, the following resolutions,—first, that no advantage can be derived from having a Municipal Council, unless the entire management of the Police, of the streets and roads within the precincts of the town, and of all other matters usually given to corporations are confided to it, and secondly that, whereas the mode of raising so large a revenue from land rents is only retained as being the most convenient and is in lieu of assessment and taxes, consequently the amount raised from that source, together with the £3,000 or 4,000 raised from licences and rents, should, with the police assessments, be applicable, as far as may be required, for municipal purposes. If the Justices had been satisfied to begin, in a small way, as a mere Committee of Police Commissioners, looking to future improvement of the revenue to provide the means for extending the scope of their functions. Hongkong would not have remained for fifty years, longer without municipal government. As it was, they demanded'a full-blown Municipal Council under impossible financial conditions. Governor Bonham, earnestly desiring to meet the wishes of the community as far as possible, made later on some fresh propositions (January 10, 1851). He offered to place the whole management of the Police under a Municipal Committee on condition that the entire expense of the Police Force be provided by an adequate police tax. He further proposed to hand over to this Committee the management of streets, roads and sewers, on condition that the requisite funds be provided, either by an assessed tax on real property (as proposed formerly by a Draft Ordinance of Sir J. Davis), or by a tax upon horses and carriages. Sir George was evidently determined on reserving the land rents to meet the establishment charges and, at great risk to his popularity, strove not only to raise the general revenue by increased taxation but to make the Colony as soon as possible independent of those Parliamentary rants on which the community meant to lean for ever. To reconcile these conflicting purposes was impossible. A breach in the Governor's good relations with the community seemed inevitable. The virulent odium which Sir J. Davis had incurred threatened to overwhelm Sir G. Bonham also. What saved his policy and popularity from shipwreck, was his persistent habit of taking the leaders of the community into his confidence, of consulting public opinion about his difficulties, and most of all his evident sincerity in seeking not only to establish the coveted Municipal Council, but to carry into effect the whole programme sketched out by the Parliamentary Committee of 1847. That programme constituted the political creed of the community and the Governor had made it his own. The Justices could not be angry with a man who did this and who moreover treated them as a sincere friend. In their replies (January 31 and March 1, 1851) they declined good-humouredly both of the Governor's offers. Whilst again expressing their willingness to undertake the duties of a Municipal Committee, they objected, first, that any further taxation would be injurious as the cost of living was already exorbitant, and secondly that the police tax would not be sufficient to provide the necessary funds because, whilst the Colony remained a rendezvous for pirates and outlaws, making even the harbour unsafe for native traders, the Police Force was too small and composed of too untrustworthy and ill-paid material. Addison would have said of the points in dispute that much might be said on both sides. The discussion closed with the Governor's declaration (March 15, 1851) that, as the Justices objected to any further taxation, and as application to the Home Government for further grants of money would, in view of recent discussions in the House of Commons, be of no avail, it was impossible for him to meet the views of the Justices. Greek had fought Greek on the arena of common sense views of finance and both parties were pleased to terminate the conflict.
The finances of the Colony were indeed in a desperate state. When the Governor published (January 8, 1849) a statement of income and expenditure for the year 1848, shewing £28,509 local revenue (apart from the Parliamentary Grant) and £62,308 expenditure, a local paper summed up the position of affairs by saying, 'the Colony is now in a state of insolvency, the public works are suspended and the officials only paid a portion of their salaries.' The difficulty was enhanced by the fact that a public loan was out of the question, that the Parliamentary Grant for 1849 had been reduced to £25,000, and that but little could be saved by retrenchment of the civil establishment without committing an act of injustice or impairing efficiency. Sir George was, indeed, even then of the opinion which he expressed later on, that, 'were this Colony taxed in the same way as are the Settlements in the Straits under the government of the East India Company, it would in a year or two be made to pay its own expenses.' But he also knew that any attempt at additional taxation would be violently resisted by the community as injurious to trade. All eyes were therefore directed to the Imperial Exchequer. Sir George himself appears to have considered the temporary continuance of a small annual grant from the Exchequer a reasonable measure. 'Seeing,' he wrote (April 2, 1850), 'that the trade of the Colony benefits the British Exchequer and the Indian Government conjointly to the extent of upwards of seven millions Sterling, an expenditure on the part of the mother country of from £12,000 to £15,000 annually, to uphold the establishment of a Colony which is the seat of the Superintendent of British trade with China, ought not to be considered excessive.' This was, however, a question to be decided by Parliament, and public opinion in England declared that the Colony was now out of its swaddling clothes and ought to learn to stand on its own legs.
Sir G. Bonham did his best to bring about this desirable result by revising taxation as far as practicable and enforcing retrenchment in every possible direction. For the ad valorem duty on goods sold by auction, he substituted increased auctioneers' licence fees. He introduced a tax on the exportation of granite which was at the time largely used as ballast for tea ships. He shrank from reviving the opium monopoly, but stimulated the revenue from the opium retail licences which had been substituted (since August 1, 1847) for the farming system. He left the police tax assessment untouched at the low rate of 5 per cent. but reduced the expensive European contingent of the Police Force to the lowest possible minimum. Finally he restricted public works (with the exception of the erection of a new Government House) to the bare maintenance of existing roads and buildings. By these and other minor forms of retrenchment, he produced at the close of the year 1849 an immediate reduction of £23,672 on the expenditure of the preceding year. He thenceforth maintained this low rate of expenditure (£38,986 in 1849) which averaged £34,398 per annum during the next three years and rose in 1853 to no more than £36,418. He was unable, indeed, to bring about any great improvement of the local revenue, which, though it rose temporarily, by the rigorous exaction of arrears of land rent in 1849, to £35,580, fell again to £28,520 in 1850, and produced during the next three years (1851 to 1853) an annual average of £23,254. However, at the close of his administration he was justified in saying (April 7, 1854) that he had brought the Parliamentary Grant from £25,000 in 1849 down to £8,500 (correctly £9,200) in 1858, and that he had reduced the expenditure of the Colony, within six years, from £62,658 to £36,418.
During h period of such financial difficulties, the vexed question of land tenure could not possibly be solved in the way in which the mercantile community desired it to be settled. The merchants were not satisfied with perpetuity of leases. They desired an entire revision of the terms on which they had originally bought their land. Instead of fixing an annual rental and putting up to auction only the rate of bonus to be paid once for all, Elliot had (in the absence of a reliable standard of land values) initiated the system of putting up to auction the rate of the crown rent to be paid from year to year. In the early times of keen competition, of booms and speculations, land jobbing forced up the crown rents to a maximum commensurate with inflated values. But this maximum, which at the time of sale seems reasonable enough, appeared in after years of commercial stagnation to be a monstrously oppressive rate. Moreover, just when these rents pressed most heavily on the land owners, the Government, whose revenues suffered likewise under commercial depression, was least inclined, nor indeed in a position, to reduce the income from land rents. At a public meeting, principally representing the land owners, a Memorial to the Government was agreed to (January 19, 1849), complaining that the land rents were a burden too heavy to be borne. The memorialists suggested, that the expenses of the civil establishment should be made to fall on trade generally (the Imperial trade) and not on local owners of land and that the crown rents should be materially reduced or abolished. Sir George was in no hurry to take up a problem which could not be solved under the circumstances of the time and left it as a legacy to his successors. After appointing (October, 1849) a Commission of Inquiry to report on the land tenure of the Colony for the information of Her Majesty's Government, he informed his select committee of Justices of the Peace, at the conference of November 3, 1849, that 'any general reduction in the ground rents would be immediately followed up by the Home Government with the imposition of some general scheme of excise or assessment which would be found much more oppressive and vexatious, besides requiring a cumbersome and costly fixed machinery.' Fifteen months later (February 14, 1851) the Colonial Secretary, in reviewing the merits of Sir G. Bonham's administration (by order of the Governor), stated that the petty sources of revenue alleged to have been oppressive, had been abolished and for the consideration of the chief source, said to be oppressive, a Committee of five was appointed and their report forwarded to Her Majesty's Government. No more was heard of this troublous question during this administration.
The legislative activity of Governor Bonham's regime centered in reforms of the administration of justice. When it was found, in October 1848, that there were only 23 persons in the Colony capable of serving on juries, the Governor reduced the property qualification of common jurors from $1,000 to $500. According to his habit of consulting the community about difficult problems, Sir G. Bonham published, in January, 1849, with a view to elicit an expression of public opinion, a Draft Ordinance to regulate the flogging of criminals. Little accustomed, as the residents then were, to being consulted by their Governors, they imagined that Sir George had no definite views on a subject on which the whole community, convinced of the absolute necessity of applying exceptional severity to the treatment of Chinese criminals, felt very strongly. Nevertheless, the Governor deemed it prudent to shelve the question, while weightier matters pressed for settlement. To remove the friction between the Police Magistrates and the Chief Justice, which had troubled the preceding administration. Sir George created (December 17, 1850) a bench of Magistrates, perfectly independent of the Government and having powers considerably greater than those ordinarily accorded to similar bodies, by the establishment of a Court of Petty Sessions. Unofficial Justices of the Peace were to sit once a week with the Police Magistrates to hear cases which otherwise would have been remitted to the Supreme Court for trial by jury. The aim of this new measure (Ordinance 5 of 1850) was to provide a more speedy settlement of small debts, misdemeanours and minor crimes. But it expected, on the part of the Justices, a greater readiness to sacrifice their time and more legal acumen, than subsequent experience proved that they possessed. Hence this measure did not give permanent satisfaction. Further, as the Governor, in his capacity as Plenipotentiary, extended at the same time the judicial powers of Consuls in Treaty ports at the expense of Supreme Court jurisdiction, many of his critics (and seemingly the Chief Justice himself) saw in this creation of a Court of Petty Sessions an objectionable encroachment upon the criminal jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. An opposition paper went so far as to impute to Sir G. Bonham the intention of eventually abolishing the costly Supreme Court altogether by the appointment of civil officers combining judicial and administrative functions under a system of plurality of offices which would save expenditure. However, the Governor made no such attempt. On the contrary, he extended the summary jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to civil cases not involving more than $500, and pleased the community considerably in giving effect to another suggestion of the Parliamentary Committee of 1847 by publishing, for the protection of suitors, a table of fees chargeable by attorneys. The question of the form of oath to be administered to Chinese witnesses occupied public attention in December, 1851, the Chief Justice having stated that lie was greatly afraid that fully half the cases adjudicated summarily had been determined on false testimony. Originally the practice had been adopted of making Chinese witnesses cut a cock's head in Court. Subsequently the breaking of an earthen-ware basin was substituted and latterly it had been customary to burn a yellow paper with oath and imprecation inscribed on it or signed by the witness. The modern practice of a simple (though generally unintelligible) oral affirmation in place of oath was now (in 1852) adopted. Among the minor Ordinances passed during this administration was an Ordinance to restrain the careless manufacture of gunpowder by Chinese (August 31, 1848), and a Marriage Ordinance (March 16, 1852) the operation of which was, however, confined to the registration of Christian marriages, leaving the polygamic marriage system of the Chinese unregulated. Sir G. Bonham's common sense administration is naturally distinguished by the paucity of its legal enactments. The strained relations which formerly existed between the Governor and Chief Justice Hulme (who was restored to office on June 10, 1848) were ended. But the Chief Justice's relations with Governor Bonham, though never unfriendly, were not marked by cordiality. Among the community, however. Chief Justice J. W. Hulme was extremely popular. On his departure (April 7, 1854) the leading residents presented him with an address testifying to the high character he had always maintained on the bench, to his satisfactory administration of the law under perplexing difficulties, and to his undeviating impartiality and uprightness.
During the first two years of Sir G. Bonham's administration, crime was still rife in the Colony, but from the year 1850 there was, with the exception of piracy, a sensible decrease of serious offences. Occasional outbursts of a grave nature were, indeed, not wanting, but the number of felonies, 674 in 1850, fell during the next two years to an average of 505 cases per annum, and was reduced in 1853 to 471 cases. An attempt was made by Chinese, on July 8, 1848, to poison 25 men of the Royal Artillery. This was followed by a fight in the harbour between the police, assisted by boats of H.M.S. Cambrian, and some junks (October 15, 1848). Three Chinese junkmen and a policeman were shot. The Coroner's jury, however, acquitted the junk people and public opinion blamed the police. Next came an attempt (December 24, 1848) to fire the Central Market. Soon after (February 28, 1849) occurred the murder at Wongmakok (near Stanley) of Captain da Costa, R.E., and Lieutenant Dwyer of the Ceylon Rifles, by the pirate chief Chui Apou, who was subsequently (March 10, 1851) convicted of manslaughter but committed suicide in jail. In September, 1849, a foolish rumour gained currency among the native population to the effect that the Chinese Government had offered a reward for the assassination of Governor Bonham. The suggestion was, however, seriously made, and subsequently acted upon, that in his carriage drives the Governor should always be attended by an escort of armed troopers. During September, 1850, some street fights occurred owing to the carpenters' guild intimidating independent journeymen who refused to submit to the guild regulations. With the exception of a murderous attack made upon the Rev. Van Geniss (August, 1852), on the road between Little Hongkong and Wongnaichung, the latter years of this administration were remarkably free from highway robberies and burglaries.
But piracy lifted up its head high during this period, in spite of the periodical destruction of piratical fleets by British gunboats. By a series of hotly contested engagements (September 28 to October 3, 1840), Commander J. C. Dalrymple Hay, with H.M. Ships Columbine, Fury, and Medea, destroyed the entire fleet of Chui Apou, consisting of 23 junks, carrying 12 to 18 guns each and manned by 1,800 desperadoes. Two piratical dock-yards were also destroyed on the same occasion. A few weeks later (October 19 to 22, 1849), Commander Hay, having under his orders H.M. Ships Phlegeton, Fury, Columbine, and a large party of officers and men from H.M.S. Hastings, destroyed the greater part of the fleet of the other pirate chief, Shap-ng-tsai. Out of 64 junks, manned by 3,150 men with 1,224 guns, as many as 58 junks were destroyed. Commander Hay officially reported that these successes were obtained on the information given 'by that invaluable officer Daniel R. Caldwell.' So intense was the rejoicing in commercial circles of Hongkong over these wholesale massacres of pirates, that a public subscription was raised and each of the captains present at the destruction of Shap-ng-tsai's fleet, was presented with a service of plate of the value of £200. A third piratical fleet of 13 junks, collected by Chui Apou, was destroyed (March 4, 1850) in Mirs Bay, close to Hongkong, by H.M.S. Medea which had on board Mr. Caldwell and a Mandarin from Kowloon. Finally, on May 10, 1853, another piratical fleet was destroyed by H.M.S. Rattler. Nevertheless, sporadic cases of piracy continued to increase in the neighbourhood of Hongkong. On February 20, 1851, a pitched, battle was fought in Aberdeen Bay between some piratical junks and 8 Chinese gunboats. A week later (February 28, 1851) a conspiracy to loot the riversteamer Hongkong on her way to Canton, was discovered by Mr. Caldwell. In the year 1852 some 19 cases of piracy were reported as having occurred in the waters of Hongkong. During the summer of 1853 piracies occurred at an average rate of 14 per month. As many as 70 cases were reported during the year 1853, the most shocking case being the murder (August 5, 1853) of the captain, officers and passengers of the S.S. Arratoon Apcar, by the Chinese crew.
The Government was almost helpless in the matter of piracy. Sir G. Bonham did what he could to organize a detective department and appointed for this purpose the best colloquial linguist Hongkong ever possessed, Mr. D. R. Caldwell, as Assistant-Superintendent of Police (September 1, 1848). His services were highly effective, particulary in connection with piracy cases. The patent failure of the Police, with regard to the prevention of crime, was unavoidable, as this extraordinary activity of Chinese criminals on land and sea was the natural corrollary of the Taiping and Triad rebellion, and as the Police Force was deficient in numerical strength so long as financial considerations prevented its re-organisation on a proper footing. Governor Bonham, who thought the Force was quite sufficient for the policing of the town, stated at the close of his administration that, while the Colony had been improving in every respect, and contentment prevailed throughout the entire population, the only subject of regret was the extent to which piracy prevailed in the neighbouring waters. 'To suppress it,' he added, 'is impossible without the co-operation of the Chinese Govennncnt. This co-operation I have repeatedly requested without avail, and in the present disorganized state of the sea-board part of the Empire it is now useless to expect it.'
It has already been stated that to the Taiping rebellion is due the great advance (81 per cent.) which the population made during this period. Even the proportion of males and females commenced now to improve, as the disturbances in the neighbouring districts drove whole families to seek refuge in Hongkong. In 1848 the population numbered 21,514 residents, in 1840 it rose to 29,507 and by the year 1853 it numbered 39,017 residents. In 1848 one fifth and in 1853 one third of the population were females.
The development of the Colony's commercial prosperity kept pace with the increase of the population. The fresh streams that stirred the stagnant pool of local commerce into renewed life came, however, not merely from the rebellion-fed source of Chinese emigration, but to a great extent also from the discovery of the Californian gold-fields, from the development of the North-Pacific whale and seal fisheries, from the progress made by the Australian Colonies and from the opening up of Japan to British trade and civilization. It may be said, in fact, that it was during this period that the Pacific Ocean commenced to rise into that commercial importance, which, as it has increased ever since, including also the smaller islands of Oceania, is bound to make the Pacific ere long one of the most important centres of the world's commercial politics.
The fresh life infused into the arteries of local commerce naturally manifested itself in the first instance by an increase in the shipping trade. The number of square-rigged vessels regularly frequenting the port increased during this period from 700 to 1,103, while their tonnage was nearly doubled. Ship-building went on briskly at J. Lamont's patent slip at East Point and from 10 to 30 European vessels were annually registered in the Colony. The native junk trade, though restrained by piracy, also increased considerably. The system of employing small British steamers to convoy and protect by force of arms fleets of native junks, continued so long as the coast of China was infested with swarms of piratical fleets. Of course this practice had its attendant evils. The Chinese Authorities protested against it and British naval commanders were its sworn enemies. One of the latter arrested the little steamer Spec and prosecuted her captain and crew in the Consular Court at Shanghai on a charge of piracy, for having fired into junks which were mistaken for pirates. The prosecution, however, fell to the ground when tried in the Supreme Court of Hongkong (September, 1848). Governor Bonham was averse to the convoying system, but Her Majesty's Government permitted its continuance as it had its justification in the fact that the spasmodic efforts, made by the few British men-of-war on the station to suppress piracy, were practically of no avail so long as the Chinese rebellion continued. Lord Palmerston also informed the Governor (in 1848) that Chinese vessels in tow of British merchant vessels have a right to British protection.
The opening of the gold-fields in the Sacramento valley in 1848 and the organisation of the new State of California in 1850 caused a new line of commerce to connect Hongkong with San Francisco. It commenced (July, 1849) with large orders for slop clothes and wooden houses (shipped in frame) which were made in Hongkong. Next, Chinese artizans were sent to California to set up those houses. These were followed by an annually increasing stream of Chinese emigrants embarking at Hongkong for San Francisco and a steadily developing trade in all sorts of articles. In the year 1851 forty-four vessels left Hongkong for California and this line of connection has been maintained ever since.
In December, 1848, a few American whalers put into Hongkong to refit and were so pleased with the resources of the Colony that for many years after they repeated their visits in increasing numbers. Thirteen such vessels arrived at the close of the year 1849. Between December 1850 and March 1851, fifteen vessels arrived laden with oil, of which a considerable portion was shipped in British bottoms to England under the navigation laws. As each of these vessels spent about £500 in the Colony, their visits were hailed with satisfaction, apart from the incipient oil trade connected with them. During the next season as many as 37 whalers arrived (December 2, 1851 to February 21, 1852) with 616,203 gallons of oil, of which however only a small portion was shipped from Hongkong to London.
Coolie emigration to Peru and Cuba, though chiefly conducted at Macao, because the crimping and kidnapping system connected with it would not have been tolerated in Hongkong, benefitted the Colony at first to some extent (in 1852). But the frequent mutinies which occurred among the coolies shipped on that system soon caused British skippers to eschew the Peruvian coolie trade. Properly regulated coolie emigration to Guiana commenced in 1853 under the direction of Mr. J. Gardiner Austin, the Immigration Agent-General of the Government of British Guiana. Emigration to Australia commenced in a small way, in 1853, with three vessels carrying 268 Chinese settlers. The restrictive policy which in after years, when pushed to an extreme, banished coolie emigration from the Colony, was initiated by Governor Bonham in a proclamation (January 4, 1854) which, however, did not go beyond regulating the provisioning and dietary scale of coolie ships.
At the close of Sir G. Bonham's administration, the conviction forced itself upon Hongkong merchants that the Nanking Treaty, though it improved British relations with China, had commercially but little effect, and that the expansion of trade that took place since the year 1843 would anyhow have resulted from purely natural causes. The returns of the Board of Trade shewed that the import of British manufactures into China was, at the close of the year 1850, less by nearly three-quarters of a million sterling, compared with what it was in 1844. Exports of tea and silk increased indeed enormously, but this increase was chiefly owing to opium and specie and not to the vast trade in manufactured goods which had been expected to result from the Nanking Treaty. It was seen at last that what restrains the influx of British fabrics into the interior of China is not the paucity of open ports but the fact that the industry of China can beat British power-looms with regard to both the cost of production and the durability of the fabric.
The opium trade of the Colony, which Sir Robert Peel's Government had at one time (in 1840) intended to suppress by the imposition of a prohibitive tax, entered in spring 1853 into its present state of legitimate commerce, through the decision of the Chinese Government to legalise the importation of opium. The published raison d'être of this decision was 'the inefficiency of the laws against opium by reason of their excessive severity.' In reality, however, Chinese statesmen, as they had been induced by financial considerations to prohibit the importation of opium in 1830, now legalised its importation in 1853 on purely financial grounds. In 1839 they excluded Indian opium because it drained China of its silver. In 1853 they imposed a heavy import duty on Indian opium to provide funds for the suppression of the Taiping rebellion. But whatever treatment they accorded to Indian opium, they all along permitted the cultivation of native opium in the inland provinces.
Questions of currency were much debated in Hongkong during this period, since October, 1850, when the comparatively rare Spanish dollars commanded a high premium in the market at Canton, where at the time the bulk of Hongkong exchange operations was conducted. Rather sudden fluctuations occurred in 1851, placing Mexican dollars, rupees and English money at an enormous discount. Various schemes were propounded to smooth matters, but all proved futile. In 1852, the coinage of a British dollar was first mooted in connection with the resolution of a public meeting held at Singapore (January, 1852) which suggested the coinage of an East India Company's dollar with divisions of half, quarter and eighth dollars for circulation in the Straits. Unfortunately the proposal was shelved for years. By notification of April 27, 1853, Sir G. Bonham published a Royal proclamation of October 16, 1852, to the effect that, whereas hitherto the silver coins of the United Kingdom had passed current in Hongkong (and some other British Colonies) as an unlimited tender for payments, they should henceforth (as in England) not be a legal tender in payment of sums exceeding forty shillings due by or to the Government. This proclamation, artificially bolstering up a theoretical gold standard, which had no commercial reality in the Colony, came into force on October 1, 1853, and delayed the rehabilitation of Hongkong's original silver (dollar) standard. Meanwhile contention arose in Hongkong through contradictory official decisions. In January, 1854, the Chief Justice ruled 'that, when an agreement runs for dollars of any denomination, such dollars must be paid with—in English money—whatever premium they command in the Hongkong market,' and again, 'that Court fees must be paid in dollars, but that it is not proper to refuse English money in payment of costs.' On the other hand, the Colonial Treasurer (W. T. Mercer) made an order (February 9, 1854) that 'all Government land rents must for the future be paid in dollars according to the terms of the lease.' As the Colonial Treasurer refused the Queen's sovereigns, which about this time had been declared by the Lords of the Treasury to be a legal discharge for the sums they represented 'throughout Her Majesty's dominions' and to require no further Colonial enactment for their legalisation, complaints were made on all sides. The contention was accentuated by the fact that the Colonial Treasurer took dollars at a fixed rate of four shillings and twopence though the market value might be five shillings.
Steam communication between Hongkong and Canton was placed on a satisfactory basis by the establishment (October 19, 1848) of the 'Hongkong and Canton Steam Packet Company.' The first Hongkong Directors of this Company were Messrs. D. Matheson, A. Campbell, T. D. Neave and F. T. Bush. They commenced operations in spring 1849 with two small steamers (of 250 tons each) built in London, The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company commenced in 1849 running a steamer (the Lady Mary Wood) regularly between Hongkong and Shanghai, but failed in an attempt, made in December 1850, to induce local merchants to pay a monthly subsidy in lieu of postage. The same Company established, in January 1853, a regular monthly mail between Hongkong and Calcutta, giving thereby the Colony the advantage of regular fortnightly communication with England. Telegrams had to be sent through intermediary agents at Gibraltar or Trieste, the latter route becoming now the favourite. The increased facilities thus provided, were not much relished by Hongkong merchants, because they accentuated the keenness of competition. The leisure with which business was formerly conducted in the time of monthly mails, was now supplanted by an annually increasing high-pressure rate of communication with all parts of the world. In other respects also local trade had by this time undergone an alteration. The profits of the China trade, formerly enjoyed by a few, were now divided among the many. The days of the merchant princes were now a dream of the past. Fortunes were still made but it took some decades of years now to make them. However, the commercial prospects of the Colony were certainly extending and assuming a character of greater permanency. When (in summer 1850) the great firms in India were prostrated one after the other, the China firms dealing with India bore the shock firmly with but one exception.
But it took years before Hongkong's commercial reputation was rehabilitated in England. The Economist, which had maligned the good fame of the Colony (in 1846), continued even in 1851 (March 8) to belittle the progress which had been made meanwhile. How very little was thought or known of Hongkong at this time even by those in authority in England, is evidenced by the fact that the Royal Commissioners of the International Exhibition of 1851 gave no place to Hongkong as a Colony. They merely invited the merchants of Hongkong to join in an exhibition representing China. Naturally resenting this slight, the Committee, appointed at a public meeting that was held on June 24, 1850, resolved to leave it to the Canton Committee, which had already appointed numerous Sub-Committees, to take action. But the latter also threw up the project and it was left to a few enthusiastic individuals in Canton and Shanghai (chiefly Consuls) to collect and forward to London specimens of Chinese produce and manufactures. China merchants in London were the principal contributors. The only exhibits representing Hongkong in that fair temple of the world's commercial competition at Hyde Park consisted of a tiny pagoda, a jade cup and two silver race cups exhibited by Mr. W. Walkinshaw, and a North-China walking stick added by Mr. F. S. Carpenter of St. John's Wood. The Royal Commissioners further demonstrated the prevailing popular ignorance of Hongkong's position by labelling and cataloguing the Canton Consul's exhibits of specimens of Chinese coal as 'collected by H.M. Consul at Hongkong.'
The sanitary record of this period presents a remarkable illustration of the vagaries of Hongkong fever and of human inability to restrain or even account for them. It had previously been customary to attribute the origin of Hongkong fever to exhalations from disturbed virgin soil arising after exposure to sun and rain. In 1848, the Colonial Surgeon traced it to the prevalence of electricity in the atmosphere. But during the next few years fever put in a sudden and equally malignant appearance in places where the soil had not been disturbed and at times when electricity in the atmosphere was particularly scarce. At a former period Hongkong fever attacked Indian troops when it spared European troops. During the administration of Sir G. Bonham fever raged epidemically in the garrison, both European and Indian, while it left the civilian population untouched. Thus it was particularly in July and. August, 1848, when, after several months of excessive heat, fever decimated the garrison to an alarming degree. The same epidemic recurred among the garrison in July and August, 1850, when no excessive heat but an unusually prolonged winter season had preceded it. In the short interval of six weeks, the 59th Regiment was more than decimated, 43 men having died (though many more were stricken with fever) between 14th July and 23rd August, 1850, whilst the health of the civilians in Hongkong continued generally good. It is noteworthy also that, after that unusually prolonged winter of 1840 to 1850, an epidemic, having all the appearances of the plague (black death) which devastated London in 1665, broke out in Canton in May, 1850, but, though it raged there for several months, it did not spread to Hongkong. In autumn (1850), when the fever had ceased ravaging the garrison of Hongkong, it broke out among the Chinese population. It was then ascribed to long continued drought. From 1850 to 1853 the average annual death rate among the civilian European population was 8 per cent. and among the Chinese 3 per cent., while among the troops it varied considerably. In 1850 the death rate among European troops was 23 per cent, and among the Indian troops 10 per cent. The case was reversed in 1852, when the death rate of European troops was 3.6 per cent, and that of the Indian troops 10.02 per cent. In 1851 and 1853 the death rate was the same among both classes of troops. But whilst in all the preceding years fever appeared principally in the summer months, it made its appearance among the garrison in 1854 as early as April, when 73 men were stricken with fever and dysentery in one month. Six cases of Beriberi, a disease previously unknown in Hongkong, occurred at this time among the Indian troops.
Great as the vagaries of disease were during this period, the divergencies of public opinion on the subject were still greater. While English newspapers denounced Hongkong as a pest-hole, while the music-halls in London resounded with the popular refrain 'You may go to Hongkong for me,' Governor Bonham grew eloquent (in his annual reports) on the salubrity of the climate of Hongkong which he considered to be 'as well adapted to the European constitution as other places similarly situated within the tropics.' Equally great was the variation of opinion among military and civilian surgeons as to the utility of Peak sanatoriums. These were first recommended in 1848 by the Colonial Surgeon (Dr. Morrison), who suggested the erection of a Government sanatorium at an altitude of 1,774 feet above the sea.
The Colonial church was at last completed and formally opened (March 11, 1849) on the anniversaiy of the day on which Sir J. Davis had laid the foundation stone. Unfortunately this ceremony revived for a moment the community's bitter feelings against their former Governor, because his coat of arms, including a bloody hand, was observed emblazoned over the porte cochère. The indignant community assumed, probably without good grounds, that this apparent impropriety, for which the Surveyor General (Ch. St. J. Cleverly) was responsible, was due to instructions left by Sir J. Davis. The building was neatly fitted up. As the cost of erection, even after leaving the tower without a steeple, exceeded the funds available (£4,600), power was given to the Trustees by a special Ordinance (3 of 1850) to raise a loan to cover the deficit ($2,500). Advantage was taken of this Ordinance to transfer the management of the Church from the Colonial Chaplain to the Lord Bishop of Victoria. For letters patent had meanwhile been issued (May 11, 1849) declaring the Colony to be the diocese of a Lord Bishop and constituting St. John's church as a cathedral church and bishop's see. It appeared that a fund of £18,000 had been raised in England for the endowment of a Hongkong bishopric, that an annual grant of £6,000 from the Colonial Bishoprics' Fund had been promised by the Bishop of London, and that an additional sum of £2,000 was available for the special purposes of St. Paul's College. The latter institution was to be (like Dr. Legge's Anglo-Chinese College) a school for the training of Chinese ministers, and the Bishop was appointed its warden under statutes approved (October 15, 1840) by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The College received later on also a small Parliamentary grant to train interpreters for the public service.
With the arrival (March 29, 1850) of the Bishop, C. Smith, who consecrated the new cathedral in September, 1850, a period of increased missionary and educational activity set in, for Bishop Smith possessed stimulating energy and looked upon the whole of China, as well as Hongkong, as his diocese. The Jewish Colony at Kaifungfoo (in North-China) received a share of the Bishop's attention, a curious testimony of which is exhibited in the City Hall Library in the shape of a portion of the Hebrew pentateuch recovered from Kaifungfoo. The Taiping rebellion and the missionary politics connected with it occupied much of the Bishop's time. For the benefit of seamen passing through Hongkong, the lorcha Anne was converted into a floating Bethel ill charge of a seamen's chaplain (Mr. Holdermann). The Government Grant-in-Aid Schools were soon brought under the supervision of the Bishop as chairman of the Educational Committee, and worked as feeders of St. Paul's College. The latter was taught (until 1849) by Mr. J. Summers (afterwards Professor of Chinese Literature at King's College, London) and subsequently by the Bishop himself and his chaplains. Though the College produced not a single native minister, nor any official interpreter, many of the best educated native residents of the Colony received their training there. The same may be said of Dr. Legge's Anglo-Chinese College which also failed to produce any native preacher or teacher but trained some -eminent English-speaking Chinese. While Bishop Smith was great in religious politics, Dr. Legge made himself a European reputation as the translator of the Chinese classics. On the other hand, some of the scholars of the Morrison Institution, of the Anglo-Chinese College and of St. Paul's College, gained at different times an unenviable notoriety in Police Court cases. Hence the public drew the inference that, in the case of Chinese youths, an English education, even when conducted on a religious basis, fails to effect any moral reform, and rather tends to draw out the vicious elements inherent in the Chinese character. The mercantile community, which had hitherto munificently supported missionary institutions, commenced about this time to withdraw their sympathies from the missionary cause altogether. The Morrison Education Society's School on Morrison Hill had to be closed, in spring 1849, for want of public support. Mr. Stanton's English Children's School, under Mr. Drake, also collapsed in 1849 and the attempt made by Miss Mitchell to revive it resulted, in 1853, in complete failure. Dr. Gützlaff's Chinese Union of native colporteurs, which had for many years made a greater stir in Europe than in China, ended in October 1849, during the temporary absence of Dr. Gützlaff, in a miserable fiasco. The London Mission Hospital for Chinese, having for some years past lost its hold on public sympathy, was closed in October, 1850. The London Missionary Society opened, however, a chapel in Queen's Road (May, 1851) where out-patients were occasionally attended to. As the mercantile public became severe critics of the labours of the missionaries, the latter now came to look upon Hongkong as 'a stumbling-block to the progress of Christianity and civilization in China.' The Roman Catholic Missions, seeking on the quiet the support of Government rather than of the public, continued the even tenor of their way. They started several small schools which gave to Portuguese youths an elementary English education and thus commenced the work which eventually filled commercial and Government offices with Portuguese clerks. The Chinese population, who were still in the habit of sending their sons to be educated outside the Colony, in Canton or in their respective native villages, cared little for local education. Public spirit among the Chinese vented itself in guild meetings, processions and temple-committees. Among the latter, the Committee of the Man-moo temple (rebuilt and enlarged in May, 1851) now rose into eminence as a sort of unrecognized and unofficial local-government board (principally made up by Nampak-hong or export merchants). This Committee secretly controlled native affairs, acted as commercial arbitrators, arranged for the due reception of mandarins passing through the Colony, negotiated the sale of official titles, and formed an unofficial link between the Chinese residents of Hongkong and the Canton Authorities.
With the advent of Sir G. Bonham, who possessed the secret of making himself thoroughly popular without surrendering a vestige of his dignity as Her Majesty's Representative, and who was fortunate in having for his co-adjutors popular and hospitable men like the Major-Generals Staveley and Jervois, a great change came over the social life of the Colony. From the very commencement of this administration, Hongkong society began to take its tone from, and was thenceforth held together by, the spirit that prevailed at Government House. The transition, from the state of things in the days of Sir H. Pottinger and Sir J. Davis, when Government House was virtually under a self-imposed ban of social ostracism, to the time of Sir G. Bonham, when the social life of the Colony gathered round Government House as its pivot, was too sudden and too great to pass off smoothly. When Sir George (November, 1849) selected fifteen of the unofficial Justices of the Peace, summoned them to a conference, and thenceforth frequently consulted them collectively or individually, he virtually created, in succession, to the merchant princes of former days, an untitled commercial aristocracy. Unfortunately, this select company had no natural basis of demarcation. Merchants, formerly of equal standing with some of the chosen fifteen, resented their exclusion from the charmed circle. Hence (particularly in summer 1850) the epithets of flunkyism and toadyism were freely applied to the attitude of the Governor's commercial friends. Even among the latter, there arose occasionally acrimonious questions of precedence at the gubernatorial dinner table. Moreover the gradations of social rank thus originated in the upper circles reproduced themselves in the middle and lower strata of local society, which accordingly became subdivided into mutually exclusive cliques and sets. The revival of the Amateur Dramatic Corps (December 2, 1848), the formation of the Victoria Regatta Club (October 25, 1849) and the establishment of a Cricket Club (June, 1851), served, together with the annual race meetings (transferred since 1850 from January to February), and the growing popularity of the Masonic fraternity (which gave its first ball on February 1, 1853), to contribute some powerful elements of social redintegration. The presence, in 1852 and 1853, of the U. S. Squadron, consisting of seven vessels, under Commodore Perry, was also helpful to level down invidious social distinctions. The sympathy which always interconnected the mercantile community and the local garrison, became specially conspicuous when, in 1848, sickness made such frightful ravages among the troops. The kindness then shown, particularly by the firm of Jardine, Matheson & Co., to the non-commissioned officers and men of the 95th Regiment, was acknowledged on the part of the latter by the presentation, to the head of that firm, of a memorial cup (February, 1849). The growingly cosmopolitan tone of public feeling in Hongkong was evidenced by the universal approval given to the salute which the British men-of-war in harbour fired on July 4, 1851, in memory of the Declaration of the Independence of the United States.
At the beginning of Sir G. Bonham's administration, a Colonial Hospital was organised (October 1, 1848) and the new Government offices (close to the Cathedral) completed (November 10, 1848). But with the exception of the erection of a new Government House (1850 to 1853), no other public works of any pretension were undertaken. On August 8, 1848, a stirring paper from the pen of Dr. Gützlaff was read at a meeting of the Royal Asiatic Society, advocating 'the advantages to be derived from the establishment of a Botanical Garden in Hongkong.' A Committee was forthwith appointed to make inquiries as to the best site and cost of the undertaking. The Government was also approached on the subject which was warmly applauded on all sides. But financial considerations caused Sir G. Bonham to postpone the execution of the scheme. The private organisation (August, 1848) of the Victoria Library and Reading Rooms (which laid the foundation for a future public library) and the existence throughout this period of three local newspapers and two advertisers, testified to the continuance of a literary as well as commercial spirit in the Colony. The temporary stay of Dr. Bowring in Hongkong (1852 to 1853) fanned the languishing energies of the Royal Asiatic Society into a new flame. Masonic pursuits were popularized by the elaborate solemnity of laying the foundation stone (February 1, 1853) of the Masonic Hall, under the direction of the Provincial Grand Master (S. Rawson) of British Masons in China.
Few but serious calamities marred the general prosperity which characterized this period. A storm of unusual violence, the severest since 1841, swept over Hongkong on August 31 and September 1, 1848. The barometer fell as low as 28·84 but the wind did not attain to full typhoon force. Although timely warning had been given by the Harbour Master, the shipping suffered severely. Thirteen vessels in harbour were damaged or wrecked and a considerable loss of life and property ensued. House property on shore, and the troop-ships in the harbour (filled with men who had been removed on board to -escape the fever), suffered but little damage. The storm was far more destructive in Macao and Canton than in Hongkong. On December 28, 1851, one of the greatest conflagrations occurred that Hongkong ever experienced. During a strong gale, a fire broke out near the Sheungwan market and, in spite of heroic efforts made by the Royal Engineers under the personal direction of Major-General Jervois to stay the fire, 472 Chinese houses, north of Queen's Road, between the present Fire Brigade Station in the East and the P. & O. Company's godowns in the West, were entirely destroyed and thirty lives lost. Liberal aid was afforded by Governor Bonham in housing the burnt-out people and the crown rents of properties concerned were temporarily abated. The whole district was speedily rebuilt with considerable improvements. A new town sprang up in the place and the most eastern and the most western of the new streets were respectively named Jervois Street and Bonham Strand, the latter being laid out on land newly reclaimed from the sea.
The obituary of this period includes, among others, the names of Dr. and Mrs. James (April, 1848), Rear-Admiral Sir Francis A. Collier, C.B. (October 28, 1849), Captain Troubridge (above mentioned), Macao's famous painter Chinnerey (May 30, 1852), Mrs. J. T. M. Legge (October 17, 1852) and Dr. Gützlaff (August 9, 1854).
A survey of Sir George Bonham's administration clearly marks him out as the first model Governor of Hongkong. The renewed prosperity of the Colony, that set in with his regime, was indeed principally due to a fortunate combination of events quite beyond his control. But whilst it never is in the power of a Governor to create prosperity, he has it in his power to hinder, mar and destroy it. Sir George, when convinced that he might gain for himself the glory of making the Colony for the first time financially self-supporting by an increase of taxation which he knew to be practicable, refrained from forcing his views upon the community in deference to public feeling. He was the first Governor of Hongkong who, basing his action on the programme sketched out by the Parliamentary Committee of 1847, administered the government of this Crown Colony on popularly recognized principles, systematically sacrificing his individual views and his personal advancement to the welfare of the common weal. Both as a diplomatist and as a governor, Sir George was an unqualified success.
Detractors of bis merits were not wanting. The Hongkong public man is nothing if not severely critical. A small opposition party in the Colony, whilst fully admitting the affability, hospitality, liberality and gentlemanly bearing of Governor Bonham, alleged—that he systematically favoured Consular Courts at the expense of the local Supreme Court; that he lost no opportunity of curtailing the powers of the latter and did nothing to make good the glaring deficiencies of Court interpretation; that his ignorance of the shipping resources of the Colony was on a par with his perfect indifference regarding them; that he arbitrarily created a set of pampered aristocrats and, whilst cajoling them by pretending to consult their views in minor affairs, ignored them concerning more weighty matters such as the regulation of emigration; that his conduct regarding the currency was impolitic and disgraceful, violating a Government proclamation (May 5, 1845) that had regulated the currency since the Island was ceded, because forsooth the Chief Justice expressed an opinion that the proclamation was illegal; that his constant endeavour was to do away with the Commissariat Treasury department, because it was not under his control; that he did nothing to assist the Post Office because it was independent of him, though the Postmaster did good service by establishing branch-offices at the Treaty ports; that he allowed the Police Force to sink into the most wretched and ineffective condition such as admitted of robberies occurring nightly and people being often knocked down in the centre of the town in the middle of the day; that the place had been blockaded by pirates and nothing had been done except by fits and starts when a smart man-of-war happened to be here; that in fine Sir George had been a useless governor, purely ornamental, highly decorated and extravagantly paid.
On the other hand, when Sir George Bonham went on furlough (March 25, 1852), the leading merchants of the Colony (David Jardine, Wilkinson Dent, C. J. F. Stuart, and George Lyall) presented him with an address signed by all the local British firms of any standing (35 in number). This address expressed the satisfaction felt by the community with the Governor's general administration and stated that the changes made in the administration of justice had gained him the confidence of all and particularly of the Chinese community, improving the latter and increasing native trade. The address also acknowledged that Sir George's social qualities had produced general harmony and confidence. Again, in 1854, when Sir George Bonham finally left the Colony, another public address, as numerously signed as the previous one, was presented to him (April 7, 1854). This farewell memorial gave Sir George the renewed assurance of the general confidence reposed in his administration, and referred to important and beneficial changes, introduced by him, which had promoted the general interest. The same merchants who six years before had assured Sir J. Davis that the Colony was ruined, lauded Sir G. Bonham on the ground that the evidence of the increased prosperity of the Colony was now quite apparent. They pointed to the new town (Bonham Strand) which had sprung up with remarkable rapidity and contributed to the large increase of the native population. In conclusion this address stated that the friendly intercourse which had subsisted between Governor Bonham and the community would leave a lasting memorial of the high estimation in which he had been held.
Nevertheless this model Governor, the first really popular and successful one of the Colony's rulers, was soon forgotten by the fluctuating community. In modern Hongkong, Sir George Bonham is about the least known of its former governors. Her Majesty's Government also bestowed no further honours on the man who had done such credit to Lord Palmerston's selection. Sir George Bonham died in 1863, leaving his greatness to appeal to the future for the recognition it deserves.