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General gave this cutting reply : “ This offer of the Church is inspired hy dread of the consequences of what they have done." The Liberal paper freely attacked Cardinal Ferrari for having deserted his flock in time of danger, and the Government for some days announced their intention to take some strong measure against him.
The Pope has since written a letter to Cardinal Ferrari, in which he regrets the absence of the Archbishop from Milan, but at the same time he uses very strong words against the Government and the national press.
In the late Ministry of the Marquis of Rudini there were two currents : one, led by the Marquis Visconti-Venosta, was for a policy of conciliation towards the Vatican, and of severe measures against the Radical agitators; the other current, led by Signor Zanardelli, was for a policy more severe towards clerical agitators than towards the Radicals. The Marquis of Radini vainly tried to conciliate the two opposing forces, and was compelled to present the resignation of his Cabinet. The now one he has formed seems disposed to act rigorously against the extreme parties.
The Marquis of Rudini, in presenting to the House his new Ministry, said : “ You may call me to account for responsibilities incurred by the late Administration as well as by the present Cabinet, but you should listen to men of honest intentions, with the object of making prompt provision for political and economic necessities. We are on the point of writing one of the most momentous pages of our Parliamentary history ; but may the very difficulties that now confront us strengthen our faith in the free institutions which have been, and will be, the religion of our political life!”
This spirited declaration sounds very patriotic, and the Premier of Italy shows himself thereby to possess both courage and decision ; but something more than drastic measures against the revolutionary and reactionary parties is required to restore in the Italian people some sort of conlidence in Parliamentary institutions. Undoubtedly the political wisdom of the present Cabinet will be tested by its forthcoming social and economic reforms.
GIOVANNI DALLA VECCHIA.
THE REPORT OF THE OPIUM
THE opium question is one about which most people would have to
scanty. Few could even say with precision what the question at issue is, and fewer still could give any intelligent account of the present state of the opium controversy. It is generally known that in some way the Government of India is deriving a considerable part of its revenue from a trade in opium carried on with China, and that it holds tenaciously to this trade on account of the revenge attaching to it. It is known, on the other hand, that the morality of the trade has for many years been vehemently assailed on the ground that this importation of Indian opium to China has wrought immeasurable harm amongst the Chinese people. But, beyond this, little is generally known, and the merits of the case are bat little understood.
At a time when China is in every one's mouth, and when the decadence of the Chinese Empire and the decrepitude of the Chinese Government are becoming more and more apparent every week, it is only reasonable once more to call attention to the fact that the gradual but certain ruin of China through the spread of the opium habit, has again and again been foretold, both by English opponents of the opium trade and also by the Chinese themselves. It is only reasonable, also, once more to call attention to the nature of the connection of the Government of India with the • trade, and to the nature of the moral objections entertained by many to its continuance.
The present article will be devoted mainly to a criticism on the Report of a Royal Commission which was appointed in 1893 to inquire into certain matters connected with the system by which the opium revende of India is raised. That Report is of such a character as to have misled the public entirely in regard to the real drift of the evidence received by the Commission as far as it relates to Chinese feeling and opinion on the opium question, or as it relates to the effects of opium-smoking on the Chinese people. But, before coming to a consideration of this Report, I will state in few words the character of the connection of the Indian Government with the trade in exporting opiom to China. My description is taken from an official source :
“The opium revenue is raised partly by a monopoly of opium in Bengal, and partly by the levy of a duty on all opium exported from native States.
. . The cultivator of opium in the monopoly districts receives advances to enable him to prepare the land for the crop, and he is required to deliver the whole of the produce at a fixed price to opium agents, by whom it is despatched
to the (two] Government factories to be prepared for the China market. The chests of manufactured opium are sold by auction at monthly sales which take place in Calcutta." In other words, the Indian Government carries on a huge business in opium, as cultivators, manufacturers, and wholesale merchante, in the same way that the Government of this country might, if it saw fit, carry on a huge business concern as distillers and vendors of spirits to be consumed in the African market. Imagine a concern of that sort kept going in the United Kingdom as a Government monopoly, all the processes of distillation, &c. &c., being carried on by officers of the Government, and finally the casks of distilled liquor being sold, for consumption amongst the negroes of Africa, at monthly auction sales in London, and we have an almost exact parallel to the Bengal monopoly system and the export trade in opium carried on by the Indian Government.
This is the manner of trade to which the anti-opium party in this country have been objecting, and with good reason, for many years, and to which they will object as long as it lasts. They object to the trade as one utterly unbecoming to the dignity and to the sense of the moral responsibility which should characterise the actions of a great civilised Power, and as one fraught with ruinous consequences to the semi-civilised people for whose market the Government of India caters. They contend that no financial gain can compensate for the loss of self-respect and for the lowering of the public standard of national morality which must ever accompany such a traffic as this. The pitiful attempts at self-justification which are ever being made by the defenders of this part of the Indian revenue remind one of the saying that, “ It is one thing for a man to whitewash himself, and it is quite another thing for him to wash himself white."
The revenue from this miserable business is now much less than it was twenty years ago, and while the total revenue of India has for some time past been steadily increasing this branch of it has been gradually decreasing. Thus each year it becomes easier for as than it formerly was to shake ourselves free from the complications that this trade involves us in, and by so doing to arrest, as far as may be possible at this late hour, the decay of China for which we as a nation are so largely responsible. In the year 1879–80 the net opium revenue of India was £8,251,670. In the year 1895–96 it was £3,159,400. This shrinkage is mainly due to the fact that in recent years, as the demoralisation of the Chinese nation through opium has proceeded, the practice of cultivating opium for themselves, on the part of the Chinese people, has enormously increased. Side by side with a growing bondage to the opium habit there has necessarily been a decreasing power on the part of consumers of the drug to purchase the more wholesome and useful articles of Western commerce. The habitual opium-smoker, besides being notoriously an indolent and unproductive member of society, is with few exceptions a man who never has money to spend on clothing his wife and children with the more expensive textile fabrics that come from abroad. The sale of wife and children to supply the opium-smoker with the drug is a matter of constant occurrence. The Indian opium trade with China, and the more recent development of the Chinese home-trade in opium, have beyond all question largely interfered with the development of legitimate trade between China and the Western nations, and will continue to do so.
I will now state briefly the reasons there are for connecting the demoralisation and decay of China with the growth of the opium habit. I will do this, not in my own words, nor in the words of anybody who has taken any part in the anti-opium agitation that for many years has been going on in this country. My first authority is a Chinese man of letters, whose evidence was received and published by the Royal Commission on Opium, to which I have already referred. Ya Keng Pak, the son of the chief secretary in the yamên of the Governor of Canton, in the words I am about to quote, expresses his own view, and the view taken by his countrymen, of the effect produced by opium-smoking on the Chinese nation. He does not hesitate to name England as being the cause of his country's misfortune.
“How can China,” he asks, “help being weak? Those (Chinese] who discuss the opium trade say that it does incalculable harm to China; it is from it that China is reduced to poverty and weakness. What can be urged in excuse by the party that at once gets the profit and does the injury? Surely England must shrink from the judgment that is passed on her behind her back. Surely she cannot bear to sit and see the people of a friendly country injured by herself without even stretching out a helping hand !"
The Chinese people frequently speak of the introduction of opium to China as a scheme of the foreigner for injaring China and undermining its strength before proceeding to conquer it. The following is an extract from a Chinese book that I bought a few years ago in Hankow. It is called “Ki hai Chung-kwoh” (“A Scheme for injaring China "):
“The people at large are easily befooled, and they fell blindly into the trap which these robbers (the foreign importers of opium] had set for them. Like some large fish that has swallowed a hook and got it into his stomach, they could not escape. . . . This scheme for injuring people was complete ; it was killing men in the dark without using a knife.”
But it is not the Chinese alone who speak of the emasculating effects of opium on the nation. Mr. R. W. Hurst, H.B.M. Consul at Tainan, tells the Royal Commissioners that: “As long as China remains a nation of opium-smokers, there is not the least reason to fear that she will become a military power of any importance, as the habit saps the energies and vitality of the nation.” Mr. E. Starkey, a British merchant resident at Chinkiang, himself formerly an importer of opium, says in his evidence given to the Commission : “As long as the smoking of opium in China is tolerated, the people will remain inert, and will thus never be a danger to other nations of Asia." Such testimonies as these might be quoted by the score, and from all classes of residents in China. They are most emphatic in the case of those witnesses who have seen most of the social life of the Chinese, and they extend over more than half a century. The opponents of the opium trade are not arguing on the basis of some pre-conceived theory, but on facts of evidence which are overwhelming in their character and quantity.
It is well known that the Indian Government has never treated this question as a moral question, but only as a question of finance and of revenue. A number of persons in this country persist in doing the same. Surely there must be in the minds of men some .confused and chaotic idea of the moral government of the universe when they can defend as sound, a system of finance which is built up on the rotten foundation of a buge moral wrong. The last ally that the Indian Government has found in its work of self-justification is the Royal Commission on Opium whose (China) Report I shall now proceed to criticise. This Report has been well described by one of the Commissioners, who declined to affix his signature to it, as "an elaborate defence of the opium-trade.” To this day it has never been really discussed in Parliament. In a debate held in the House of Commons shortly after it was published its true character was exposed by two members of the House who had long been familiar with the details of the opium question, and who had mastered a great part of the evidence published by the Commission as it appeared, volume by