Great Britain: Foreign Policy and the Span of Empire, 1689-1971: A Documentary History - Vol. 4

Great Britain: Foreign Policy and the Span of Empire, 1689-1971: A Documentary History - Vol. 4

Great Britain: Foreign Policy and the Span of Empire, 1689-1971: A Documentary History - Vol. 4

Great Britain: Foreign Policy and the Span of Empire, 1689-1971: A Documentary History - Vol. 4

Excerpt

Speech by William E. Gladstone in the House of Commons Attacking the Second China War, 3 March 1857*

Having, Sir, adverted to the arguments founded on the municipal and international law, I now ask, how does this question stand on the higher ground of natural justice? I say higher ground, because it is the highest ground of all. My right hon. Friend was forbidden to appeal to the principles of Christianity. I grant that it is painful to have them brought into discussions of this kind: but at the same time any man, feeling the application of Christian principles to the position in which he is placed, might find it difficult under the circumstances altogether to refrain from giving expression to his deepest convictions. However, as it seems to give offence, I will make no appeal to those principles; but I will appeal to that which is older than Christianity, because it was in the world before Christianity—to that which is broader than Christianity, because it extends in the world beyond Christianity,—and to that which underlays Christianity, for Christianity itself appeals to it,—I appeal to that justice which binds man to man. I ask the House to take with me a short survey of the position in which we stand in China. We have spoken of the treaty obligations of China towards ourselves; but let not our treaty obligations to China be forgotten. For what purpose did we acquire Hong Kong? Have you looked to the terms of the treaty on that point? The purpose for which you acquired it is stated in the following passage: —

His Majesty the Emperor of China cedes to the Queen of Great Britain the
island of Hong Kong, it being obviously necessary and desirable that British
subjects should have some port whereat they might careen and refit their
ships when required.

That was the purpose of the cession of Hong Kong, and to that purpose, if we were to act in conformity with the spirit of the treaty, it should be applied. I confess I heard with astonishment the statement of my right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Board of Trade the other evening upon this subject. He rose from his seat and said that he would introduce to the House something not mentioned before. It certainly had not been mentioned before, and it has not been mentioned since, and I very much doubt whether it will ever be mentioned again. He told us that Hong Kong had been handed over to Her Majesty by the Emperor of China, and that at the period of the cession the Emperor

*Hansard, 3.S., CXLIV, 1798-1809.

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