The China Question is reflected in several of Punch's cartoons in the first half of 1857, specifically on p. 184 ("What Can You Say for Your Friends Now, Richard?") and on p. 185 ("A Lesson to John Chinaman. Mr. Punch. "Give it him well, Pam [Lord Palmerston, wielding a cat o' nine tails]. While you are about it!") in the 9 May issue.

In December 1856, after a dispute about a Chinese "lorcha" named the "Arrow," a British squadron in the waters off Canton destroyed several fortresses and captured Canton itself; thereafter, the British secured "a Treaty of Commerce more liberal in its conditions than had hitherto existed with the Celestial Empire" ("Introduction" to Vol. 32, page 1). However, British sensibilities were subsequently aroused by the massacre of all Europeans on board the mail-steamer "Thistle" in the waters near Hong-Kong; the perpetrators were a party of Chinese soldiers disguised as passengers. After the general slaughter, they ran the ship aground, set fire to it, and escaped. This incident, in turn, provided provocation for the dispatching of a British expeditionary force under Admiral Sir Michael Seymour in January 1857. The weekly magazine Punch describes the military campaign in terms designed to provoke anti-Chinese feeling in the reader.

. . .on the 12th of January, parties of troops were landed in the western suburbs of Canton, who, carried with them fire-balls and lighted torches, and assisted by shells from the ships they soon involved the suburb in a general conflagration, and then retired. The suburb blazed for two days, and on the second day the Chinese fired some rockets upon the Dutch Folly fort [occupied by British troops], but our superior practice soon compelled them to desist. Afterwards, the church and club-house at Canton were blown up by our troops, and the Dutch Folly and Bird's Nest forts were also abandoned. The steamers were withdrawn from the upper part of the river, and the troops took up their position in the Teatotum fort, near the Macao passage. Whampoa also was entirely abandoned.

To show the vindictive spirit in which the Imperial Commissioner YEH was disposed to carry on the contest, we may mention that he issued a proclamation, which contained the following tariff of rewards, promised to those who succeeded in killing any of the "red-haired foreign dogs" -- that is, the British and French.

  1. "Whoever catches an English or French rebel chief will receive a reward of 5000 dollars.
  2. "Whoever cuts off the head of a rebel barbarian will receive a reward of 50 dollars.
  3. "Whoever catches a rebel barbarian alive will receive a reward of 100 dollars.
  4. "4. Whoever catches a traitor, will, on producing satisfactory evidence, receive a reward of 20 dollars.
  5. "5. Whoever can manage to burn or take a large war steamer will receive a reward of 10,000 dollars.
  6. "6. Whoever can manage to burn or take a shallow water steamer will receive 200 dollars, and can be remembered for further reward."

The proclamation added: --

"All those who are in the employ of the foreign dogs must leave their employment in one month, and after one month, if they still stay with the foreign dogs, and do not return to their native villages, the elders of the villages will hand over their families to the [Chinese] authorities, as if they were the red-head rebels. . . . . The Americans, Spaniards, and other foreign nations are on good terms with ours [i. e., China]. The stoppage of trade is solely caused by the English and French dogs, and complaints must be made against them alone and not us."

This insolent proclamation led to two expeditions, one under Commodore ELLIOTT, and the other under ADMIRAL SIR MICHAEL SEYMOUR, and which ended in the destruction of the Chinese fleet of war-junks in the Canton Waters.

In the middle of the year 1857 news reached England of the Sepoy Mutiny in India, which broke out in mid-April in the cantonment of Meerut. The editors of Punch end their introduction to Vol. 32 thus: "We reserve the continuance of this terrible story for our next volume.

Related Materials on the China Situation:


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Last modified 12 April 2004