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Title: Brief Account of the English Character

Author: Charles Marjoribanks

Translator: Robert Morrison

Release date: May 31, 2017 [eBook #54820]

Language: English, Chinese

Credits: Produced by Ting Man Tsao



Brief Account of the English Character



Compiler's Note 按語

Believing in the power of print in converting and “educating” the Chinese, nineteenth-century European traders and missionaries invested significant amounts of energy and money in the dissemination of tracts on the China coast. One of these ephemera was 大英 國人事略說, "Brief Account of the English Character." It was first drafted in English by Charles Marjoribanks, president of the English East India Company’s Select Committee in Canton. Robert Morrison (馬禮遜), a missionary-cum-sinologist, translated the manuscript into Chinese and printed hundreds of copies at his 英華書院 (Anglo-Chinese College) in Malacca (Melaka). In 1832, despite his colleagues’ objection, Marjoribanks engaged Charles Gutzlaff (郭士立 or 郭實腊), a German missionary, and Hugh Hamilton Lindsay, the Company’s supercargo, to make an illegal voyage to China’s coastal waters in order to “ascertain how far the northern ports of the Chinese empire may be gradually opened to British commerce” (Ship Amherst, p.3). He asked the voyagers to load a ship with English products for sale as well as cases of his pamphlet for distribution.

What follows is a side-by-side bilingual e-text of the tract. On the left is Marjoribanks’s English manuscript, anonymously edited and published in The Canton Register dated July 18, 1832 (廣州紀事報). On the right is a complete transcription of the Chinese tract with punctuation added. Typographical errors in both texts were not corrected. Please scroll down to see page images of each document; the Chinese tract’s images are courtesy of Harvard-Yenching Library Chinese Rare Books Digitization Project.

Besides the edited one in The Canton Register, there is another extant, unedited manuscript of Marjoribanks's, housed in the British Library. My earlier work, “Representing ‘Great England’ to Qing China in the Age of Free Trade Imperialism: The Circulation of a Tract by Charles Marjoribanks on the China Coast” provides the full text of this manuscript and an introduction; please visit NINES (Nineteenth Century Scholarship Online):

Ting Man Tsao, Ph.D.

Brief Account of the English Character
[Charles Marjoribanks]
The Canton Register
5.10 (July 18, 1832): p.68-69

[馬禮遜, Robert Morrison 〔譯〕]



The English people inhabit a country, at the distance of 16,000 miles from China;—at least this space is passed over by ships, from the necessity of their proceeding round the southern continent of Africa. Some idea may be formed of the spirit and enterprise of a nation, whose vessels traverse so vast an ocean, in safety and with facility.—They frequently encounter severe tempests, but from the skill of their officers, and the bold and daring character of the seamen, ships are rarely lost. Pirates or enemies do not venture to attack them. They bring the manufactures and productions of remote countries, and receive in exchange those of China. By this means the subjects, both of the Chinese and British Empires, are enriched, industry is greatly encouraged, and men are rendered happy and useful members of society. 英國人原活之地,距中華有七萬里之遠;即是其船,往南轉亞非里加州之大地方,遂來東 北到粵必行這樣遠路。既英國人坐船快捷,安然渡行,汎此重大海洋,其敢爲本事可見也。有時 伊遇著狂風大作,但賴船主夥長等之善策,梢人之膽行,未幾何致破船之患。又且在洋面海賊國 敵等,都不敢向攻也。英國船所帶進口的係遠國之土產之製造各物,所帶出口者係華夏之茶葉等 貨。如是華、英兩國商人發財裕國,且貧民有工夫做得飯食,爲良人度日,享此福矣。
The English have traded for upwards of two hundred years with China, and from sixty to eighty vessels under the English flag, are frequently within twelve months, in the Chinese waters. To how many tens of thousands of natives does not such a commerce give useful employment! 英國與中華交易,由來二百年之久,且今每年陸續到粵進口插帶英國旗之船,有六十、八 十隻之多。由此貿易豈非數十萬人得有工夫做麼!
The policy of the English government has often in China been most falsely represented, and it has been stated to be ambitious, and desirous of increase of territory. No assertion can be more distant from truth. The dominions of England are already so large, that the policy of the government is rather to diminish than to enlarge them. Besides the mother country, it has several valuable possessions in Europe; it has large territories in North America; and numerous islands in the West Indies. The Cape of Good Hope, in Africa, belongs to it; it has several prosperous settlements in Australia; numerous islands in Asia are subject to its rule; and the ancient territory of Hindostan with all the regions pertaining thereto, is now included in the British Empire. The small settlements of Penang, Martaban, Malacca, and Singapore, are those most contiguous to China. The government of so great an Empire has no thirst for conquest. Its great object and aim is to preserve its subjects in a condition of happiness and tranquillity. But while most desirous of doing so, it is very jealous of insult, and ever ready to avenge oppression and injustice. 英國國朝之志意,屢被人在東土妄稱及,即有假言,以英國總是多貪廣開新地,但謊言莫 大於此。葢英國之地方,現在太多,𡨴可減少,不可增多也。除英國母地外,其在歐羅巴亦有貴地 方,在北亞米利加其亦有好大地方。又在西忻度其有海島盛多,在亞非里加極南角好望之甲爲英 國之屬地。又於太平南洋有屬英國許多發達下落之地方,終者在亞西亞州多有海島,且忻都斯垣 古國各地方,皆入英國版圖矣。其最近中國屬英國之下落地方爲裨能埠、馬地班埠、馬拉加埠、 與先嘉波埠。夫英國朝廷既經有了這多大地方,何得復渴望開新地乎。其所尚者,特爲養護英民, 享平安納福樂而已。但懷此意時,仍最忌恨被人之欺負,且必想報壓治背義之仇也。
The object and endeavour of the English in China have always been to carry on a pacific and amicable intercourse, but their anxiety to do so has, on several occasions, been frustrated. The benevolent disposition of the great Emperor of China has induced him to state his desire, to treat remote foreigners with indulgence and consideration: but the Imperial benevolence of mind has, on several occasions, in past years, been opposed, by subordinatel officers of his government. Foreigners trading to Canton have been heavily taxed and oppressed; and commerce has been greatly impeded by the exactions to which it has been exposed. Natives have repeatedly been heavily fined and punished, sometimes cruelly tortured and put to death, for alleged treasonable connection with the English, whose only object was to conduct a commercial intercourse in tranquillity, and to obey the Imperial laws. In addition to the government duties, large sums of money have been forced from native merchants, and bribes have been received by inferior officers. Both natives and foreigners have been subject to these oppressions. The Imperial ear is too remote that even the echo of such things should be heard, for they are often done in darkness and silence; but the great and enlarged mind of the Emperor can never approve of such acts on the part of his servants. 大清國大皇帝,懷柔遠人之至意,但近年屢次因吏憲不體行上旨,所以皇恩不及遠客。且駐 粵外國商人之貿易,因吏員之勒索,多被阻難。又且民商因被誣告,以與英國人勾結爲漢奸,則 致罰銀、或拷打、或冤獄、斃命皆有之。但英國人特願照例買賣,公道貿易,納餉而已,何奸情 之有哉。又且正餉外,洋商多被勒索銀両,且有下吏暗中要賄賂陋規,如是內商與遠商均被壓害。 葢皇上耳朶離粵省遙遠,致事之應聲,亦不得聽聞,因所陳敝端,多在黑陰匿偶而作矣。不然何 得上志宏大者,依允下吏之妄爲乎。

Printed placards have even been affixed to the walls of public buildings, traducing the foreign character, and encouraging low and degraded natives to insult strangers who resort to China. Affrays and riots have frequently in consequence taken place; the public peace has been disturbed, and commercial intercourse interrupted. How much are the police officers to blame, who do not put an end to such improper and unjust proceedings! English sailors are often rude in manner, though kind in disposition. They cannot bear insult;—hence riots take place, wounds are inflicted, and death is sometimes the consequence. On board English ships that resort to China, strict discipline is preserved, and the men are immediately punished, if they commit violent acts, towards natives or others: but discipline is of little avail, if low natives are encouraged by low officers, to insult and attack them. The laws of England make no distinction of persons, and an Englishman is as severely punished for an act of violence towards a Chinese as he is for one towards a fellow-countryman.

又一層,或時揭貼街上,有臭諭詈罵遠客,謊言暗指,以逆性之惡行,致惹賤民欺凌遠客。 且緣此起有滋生鬬歐傷殺等敝,及終停止貿易,阻害公幹,但此患豈非衙門辦理不善所致乎! 英國水手雖外形似粗,內懷尚存仁溫之心。但伊耐不得受人凌辱,所以民人非禮言行時,致 滋事釀出命案。抵粵之英國各船上有嚴束水手人等之例,倘強害何人,不論民人與否,必要治其 罪。但既有衙吏放縱賤民,任意欺凌遠客,則船上嚴束未致盡免鬧事也。照英國法律,不分內外 人色,其加害于外國人,或于英民者,治其罪同爲一例,皆准上衙自白其理,亦准給律師爲助遠 客之意。
The manners and customs of all nations are different. With just allowance made for such difference, why should not Chinese and Englishmen live together on terms of friendly cordiality? The commands of the Sovereign of England to his subjects are, wherever they go in the world, to endeavour to maintain an amicable and pacific intercourse with the people of the country, but never to be forgetful of their national name or honor. When Chinese subjects arrive in England, or in any other part of the English dominions, they live under the protection of the laws, which are equally administered to them with the natives of the country. Their wrongs and injuries are all equally redressed. 夫各國風俗大同小異,但雖其內有相異者,曉事達理之人可能彼比相恕,則清、英兩國人, 何不友心和睦交易乎。英國帝君常令其眾民以不論往向通天下何處,務要力試與各國人守友睦之 往來。惟總不可忘記英國之美名之貴體等意,或遇清國人到英國各地方,皆准之安住,似英民一 般,故無人敢欺之害之,而未蒙官吏伸其冤也。
Instead, then, of being encouraged to acts of enmity towards each other, why should not Chinese and English strive together, which should most excel in acts of beneficence and kindness? In many instances, natives of China, who have been found shipwrecked on barren islands, in the midst of the boisterous ocean, have been saved by the crews of English vessels, —unfortunate men who must otherwise have perished in want and misery. British sailors have long been distinguished for such acts of humanity, and are taught to glory in them, more than even in deeds of war. Yet these are the persons whom the natives of China are sometimes told, by designing men, to insult and despise. 既然情由如此,何苦要惹彼此相敵乎,何不彼此力勸自勉,相爭前進,看誰可出上頭,爲仁 慈恩愛之行作矣。即如向來屢次遇清國難水手,在大洋中荒州破船處,蒙英國水手爭先向救,遂 帶回中華,送到父母妻子等。倘非如此,該人無奈在彼海島餓死。比等仁情,是英國水手以爲可 榮,過於上陳殺賊之功矣。尚且世上有奸人妄指英國水手可爲欺凌藐視,豈不可惡哉。
The people of China are highly intelligent, industrious, and prosperous; but they are not the only people in the World that are so. Ignorant men have sometimes foolishly taught, that all that is good is centred in China, but that the rest of the earth is worthless. — How vain and childish is the man who reasons thus!—If he had visited other countries, he would have discovered, that Heaven had in its bounty and mercy bestowed manifold blessings on many other regions of the earth. In England, the people live in tranquility; their persons and property are protected by the laws; their religion inculcates peace upon earth and good will towards all men; they have arrived at a wonderful state of improvement in arts and science, and in the cultivation of all those means which serve to civilize mankind. They are feared in times of war, and honored in times of peace. There is no country with which it is more the interest of China to remain on terms of friendly intercourse than England. It carries on a great and lucrative commerce with this Empire, and the confines of its Indian dominions almost border upon those of China. One river which rises in Yun-nan flows through a portion of the British territory. 清國人民爲高明勤工興旺者,但普天下非獨清人爲如此。素有無智之人愚,然教以所有之美 好人物盡在中國,其餘他國爲賤陋,無值何也。但人有如是之教訓,則何等徒虛小兒之見哉。倘 該人經往至天下別國,則可見天心無私,乃恩慈公同賜于地球各方,盛多美物。即英國一處,人 民太平安居,親體財物皆爲法律所護,無人敢侵害。又英人所奉救世主耶穌之教,特諭訓以于地 神賜太平,且恩意向眾生矣。英人經大進格物技藝文墨詩書之學,可令人雅緻禮義聖善之德行也。 英人於用兵時被人之畏,於息兵時被人之貴,所有各國內清國該修好者,英國爲第一也。其年來 之貿易爲重大,其邊界近乎昆連,即雲南省發的一條河,流英國一所地方,而入大海。
It is much to the honor of Chinese merchants, that they are strict and accurate in their commercial dealings, and in some instances have shewn acts of much liberality to foreigners. The pride of a British merchant is to be just and liberal in his dealings. The high name and reputation of the English East India Company in China has long been established; the promise of its servants is as good as money accurately weighed, and its faith pledged in any mercantile transaction has never once been broken. Let the people of China think profoundly upon these things, and not treat lightly persons of this stamp and character. Let the officers of government, in accordance with the decrees of the benevolent Emperor of China, treat foreigners with the respect and consideration to which they are entitled. Then, indeed, will there be peace, union, and harmony, between the native and British Community in China. 清國商人多爲公平勤功辦事,且或時向遠商有仁義大量之厚行。英國商人所以爲貴者,係公 道豐厚交易,即如英國公班衙,派人駐粵貿易者,由來已久,有名聲矣。其主事人等,所應許爲 妥當,若經照數收銀両全完,則向來做生理,伊所應承,從未一次反口。茲請大清國人民,深想 上陳之各條,不要經視這種才具品行之人,且奉官職者,宜敬體大皇帝厚待禮接遠人之至意。則 果然將來在中華之英人與內地人民,固爲彼此友見和睦,各安本業享福矣。
A friend to China and England, whose anxious desire is the happiness of his fellow-men, traces with a feeble pen this hasty and imperfect sketch. 華、英兩國之友,特願我人類眾生,皆可享真福者,用軟且怱手此筆。


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