Friday, January 23, 2015

Imperial Rescript (5/9/1839)

Updated January 25, 2015

Date:May 9, 1839 清宣宗道光十九年 (己亥) 三月十九日 (乙卯) [the nineteenth day of the third month in the nineteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tao-kuang]
Subject[1]:Lin Tse-hsu to destroy the seized opium in Kuangtung

諭內閣、前據林則徐等馳奏、躉船鴉片盡數呈繳。請解京驗明燒毀。當降旨允行。本日據御史鄧瀛奏稱、廣東距京。程途遼遠。所繳煙土。為數較多。恐委員稽察難周。易啟偷漏抽換之弊等語。林則徐等經朕委任。此次查辦粵洋煙土。甚屬認真。朕斷不疑其稍有欺飾。且長途轉運。不無借資民力。著毋庸解送來京。即交林則 徐、鄧廷楨、怡良、於收繳完竣后。即在該處督率文武員弁。公衕查核。目擊銷毀。俾沿海居民及在粵夷人。共見共聞。咸知震詟。該大臣等惟當仰體朕意。核實稽 查。斷不准在事員弁人等稍滋弊混 。

The Grand Secretariat is hereby commanded: pertaining to the previous expressed memorial submitted by Lin Tse-hsu, etc., who reported the entire stockpile of opium from the opium hulks has been surrendered [by foreign opium smugglers]. Lin plead to have the said opium transported to Peking for inspection and destruction. An edict should be issued to give OUR assent accordingly.

The memorial submitted by Censor, Teng Ying, received today mentions that it may be hard to totally secure the transfer in view of the vast distance between Kwangtung and Peking and the large amount of opium in matter. It says further that this very likely would invite the occurrences of fraudulent incidents. It is also unavoidable, furthermore, that some burden will be cast upon the common people dwelling along the route of the transfer because of the far distance that needs to be covered.

Lin, etc., was appointed by US to suppress opium, at which they have performed diligently. WE have no doubt they are not the kind to commit deceitful or conspiratorial deeds, however minute.

Now therefore, command Lin not to transfer the said opium to Peking and instead have it destroyed locally. Lin, along with Teng Ting-chen [Deng Tingzhen] and I-liang, are to administer the destruction in public. Both civil and military officers shall take part in it to first carefully inspect the said opium and afterward witness its destruction. Use this occasion to demonstrate our resolve to dwellers by the seacoast as well as the foreign barbarians stationed in Kwangtung. The effect should be one that is shocking and fearful.

If only the said chancellors look carefully into and understand the true meaning of OUR thoughts on this matter with utmost respects, they would execute this task with accuracy and precision and not to allow the flourish of any fraudulent or confusing incidents, however slightest. (translated by Rudi Butt)

Several days after I have completed my translation I found a fraction of a document quoted in The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Register for British and Foreign India, China and Australasia, Vol. 30, September – December, 1839, p.309. This must be the translation of the imperial edict issued by the the Grand Secretariat [translated as Cabinet Council in this document] to Lin, based on the instruction of the rescript I translated.

... a dispatch from the Cabinet Council, as follows:-

"This affair has been extremely well managed; and I, the emperor, certainly have no suspicion that there is any deception or glossing in the matter; but as to the request that the opium shall be sent to Peking to be destroyed, I consider that the distance is great and the road difficult, and it would require the strength of too many of the people; therefore there is no necessity to send it to Peking. Lin and his colleagues are to assemble the civil and military officers and destroy the opium before their eyes; thus manifesting to the natives dwelling on the sea coasts, and the foreigners of outside nations, an awful warning."

Source: 清實錄道光朝實錄 (Qing Shilu, Daoguangchao Shilu) [The Truthful Record of Qing Dynasty: The Truthful Record of the Reign of Daoguang]
[1] Subject was not written in any Imperial Rescript. What appears here has been written for the easy reference of the readership.


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