3.pdf - CHAPTER 1'Anglo-China The Opium War and the British Acquisition of Hong Kong A sort o f hallucination seems to have seized those w h o built

3.pdf - CHAPTER 1'Anglo-China The Opium War and the British...

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CH A PT ER 1 'Anglo-China': The Opium War and the British Acquisition of Hong Kong A sort o f hallucination seems to have seized those who built houses here; they thought that Hong Kong would rapidly out-rival Singapore, and become the Tyre or Carthage o f the eastern hemisphere. Three years' residence, and the experience thence derived, have materially sobered their views. Unfortunately the Government of the colony fostered the delusion respecting the colony. The leading Government officers bought land, built houses or bazaars, which they rented out at high rates, and the public money was lavished in the most extraordinary manner ; building up, and pulling down temporary structures, making zig-zag bridle-paths over the hills and mountains, and forming the ‘Queen’s R oad’ o f about three to four miles long, on which about 180,000 dollars have been expended, but which is not passable for half the year. The straggling settlement called Victoria, built along the (Queen’s Road,’ was dignified with the name o f ‘c i t y a n d it was declared on the highest authority, that Hong Kong would contain a population ‘equal to that of ancient R om e.’ (Robert Montgomery Martin, Colonial Treasurer, July 1844)1 The early promoters of Hong Kong talked in extravagant terms about their tiny new island colony. Hong Kong, wrote its future governor, John Francis Davis, after the dust of the Opium War had settled, now gave the British an opportunity to ‘surprise the Chinese by shewing them the Miracles of peace as well as of War’ The ‘Schoolmaster’ is indeed ‘abroad’, and may now carry his lessons to the doors of those who never yet left home. There is a real British colony (no Portuguese counterfeit) planted on the very threshold of China. There they may see commerce flourishing in the absence of restrictions, property and person secure under the protection of equal laws, and, in a word, all the best fruits of science and civilization transplanted direct from the European 21
Founding a Colony headquarters. The good or evil we may do there will, by the law of inevitable necessity, react upon ourselves.2 This remotest of Britain’s colonies was to be a ‘little miniature representative5 of all that was good and progressive in the mother country. A sharp observer in London, Captain Grindlay, poring over maps of the British operations during the war, drew attention to the remarkable fact that, even in its physical shape, Hong Kong was a ‘perfect miniature’ of the British Isles.3 Even Qiying, the Chinese Commissioner who had signed away the island to the British, declared, on his officials visit to the new colony in June 1843, that it resembled a ‘little England’ or a ‘little Britain’.4 ‘You have done wonders, not by degrees, but in an instant,’ he remarked to the Commander of the garrison in Hong Kong on another visit a few years later. ‘Your city has sprung out of the Earth like a Child new born.’5 These were convivial visits, in which the jovial, aristocratic Qiying

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