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Merchants of War and PeaceBritish Knowledge of China in the Making of the Opium War$
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Song-Chuan Chen

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9789888390564

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888390564.001.0001

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Reasoning Britain into a War

Reasoning Britain into a War

(p.103) 6 Reasoning Britain into a War
Merchants of War and Peace

Song-Chuan Chen

Hong Kong University Press

The Warlike party believed it had the right to petition both the Chinese and British governments to have its voice heard and to obtain the justice it deserved. In this spirit, which seemed to be a product of enlightenment but was actually imperialism, the party engaged the Chinese government and went to London to lobby for war in 1835 and 1839. They met with Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston and finally won his support in late 1839. They supplied him with a war strategy and, crucially, with knowledge of the weakness of Chinese military defences, which suggested that the war was easily winnable. Not many in London or the West had the means, at the time, to know China better than the British merchants of Canton. The military intelligence they supplied made a difference in the war decision. Britain fought and won the First Opium War, according to the plan the Warlike party supplied, prompting Palmerston, famously, to express his thanks to key Warlike party member William Jardine for the ‘assistance and information . . . so handsomely afforded’. The Nanking Treaty, signed after the war in 1842, fulfilled the demands that merchants had discussed in their maritime public sphere.

Keywords:   War lobby in London, military intelligence, the Warlike party as war’s origin, Hong Kong as a British colony, Treaty of Nanking

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