Letter from Richard Clarke to Rutherford Alcock

Scope and Content

Letter from Richard Clarke, Honorary Secretary, to Rutherford Alcock, British Resident in Fuchow, to reply to Alcock's letter of 17 December 1845 referring to a paper in the Society's Journal entitled 'The Opening of a second port in China' by Mr Ball. He refers to an extract of a letter from Lord Auckland, President of the Royal Asiatic Society, (also at this time First Lord of the Admiralty), written to Sir John Davis (at this time Governor of Hong Kong) which is set out below and which requests information about conditions in Hong Kong with a view to establishing if they can learn anything from them.
He requests information about the population, climate and productions and also requests information about Pali Buddhist texts from the 2nd to 10th centuries which are said to exist in Chinese libraries. He also asks for information from one who is recently new to the country before familiarity sets in and things that should be reported are dismissed as not worth noting.
He further discusses the opium trade which is forbidden by the Chinese government but fears that the regulation that he has to enforce will drive the trade to European smugglers and to ships 'flying under foreign colours'. He discusses opium usage but concludes that although its use is increasing it is 'use rather than abuse' and that its efffects are no worse that those caused by intoxicating liquors in other countries. He asks for Sir John's opinion on this question and to find out what the various ranks of society feel about the question and where people's sympathy lies.
He remarks that the history of UK government /Chinese relations cannot but be interesting and he looks forward to receiving news as to how mercantile interests and capital fare as they travel north and particularly how imported European manufactures effect the Chinese. What are Chinese exports likely to be other than tea, silk and silver? How will English tariffs effect matters? Is there anything to be learnt about Japanese trade which is carried on from more northern ports?
Lord Auckland also asks questions (1) about religion and whether there are European Christians, and also mentions Syrian Christians and Mohamedans both Sunni and Shia and the books used by the various denominations (2) questions relating to land usage (3) Physics and statistics, (4) Public administration including the justice system and the question as to whether the charge of infanticide is well founded (5) Popular customs, amusements, musical instruments (6) education, public and private, and the estimation to which education is held (7) the structure and maintenance of of roads and canals (8) evidence of slavery or servitude (10) the orders of society, privileges and precedents (11) regulation of wages, weights and measures (12) Navigation, ship and boat building.
In addition to the above contained in Lord Auckland's letter, information on any of the following would be valuable (1) State of non-Chinese tribes, languages and vocabulary (2) Condition of destitute, mendacity (3) frequency of famine (4) regulation of wages (5) existence of large manufactures (6) Tea manufacture (7) state of houses of middle class and sort of furniture they use (8) price of rice, wheat , fish (9) security of persons and property (10) conduct of officials, venality, bribes, etc (11) taxation of land /produce and (12) rents, condition and status of labourers.
The letter concludes with the assurance that the Society will give the recipient publicity through its Journal with any information that he is able to supply.
(Found on pages 52-56)