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Title: Brief Account of the English Character
Author: Marjoribanks, Charles
Language: Chinese
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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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 [http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/871820571], 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
The Canton Register
[Charles Marjoribanks]
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

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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
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

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!
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
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
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

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
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

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,
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
師爲助遠 客之意。

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
一 般,故無人敢欺之害之,而未蒙官吏伸其冤也。

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
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

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,
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
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

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
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



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